Mercer Foods is committed to state-of-the art research and development and making the highest quality freeze-dried products on the market. We are also strongly committed to sustainability and environmental conservation. Our facility in Modesto, California has a 1-megawatt, 5-acre solar park that provides up to 60 percent of our energy needs (depending on available sunlight) and saves more than 30,000 tons of CO2 emissions each year.

We’ve been gathering data on water usage for years now, tracking how much water we use and dump each day. Until recently, we were using far too much water than we were comfortable with.

The turning tides

Water waste in the industrial sector is a serious problem — especially in California, a state that has recently encountered water shortages unlikely to dissipate anytime soon. We knew we needed to do our part to reduce water usage and prepare for any future droughts that might hit the area.

We tasked a small, specialized in-house team with reexamining water usage in our 257,000-square-foot facility. But when we evaluated the systems in place and thought about the ways we could improve upon them, we found one obstacle after another. For instance, we found we could recapture water in one system, but doing so would take an infeasible holding tank and specialized filtration systems, both of which weren’t viable options.

Our break came when we tackled the cooling system used for vacuum pumps and refrigeration compressors, which sent many gallons of hot water down the drain every day. Not only were we wasting water by discarding it, we were also wasting energy in the form of heat. There had to be a way to put this hot water to good use.

Into uncharted waters

With the help of our engineering team, we created a closed-loop system that recycles, recaptures, and treats the hot water, rather than sending it down the drain. Now that hot water is being reused in our new, state-of-the art boiler. This way the water is not only recycled, but saves energy as well, since it requires significantly less heating than room-temperature tap water.

It took a serious investment in terms of both time and money, but revamping this one system increased production and reduced our water usage by 72 percent. The new boiler is the most advanced system currently available and has reduced particulate emissions by 85 percent.

As we look toward the future and the challenges that industrial facilities in California will likely face in the coming years, we remain committed to applying the most environmentally responsible solutions anywhere we can — for the planet and for ourselves. If (or when) the next big drought comes, we’re prepared, and ready to jump into action without disrupting production.