Everything is a cycle
With around 50 employees, this medium-sized company makes products for the so-called 5ième gamme (“fifth range”): vacuum-cooked, pasteurized, or sterilized, ready-to-use agricultural products that are preserved by this treatment.
More than 50 percent of beet (betteraves rouges) sold in this way in France comes from the Allaire Group, which also includes a small factory in Bray-Saint-Aignan near Orléans. The French market leader also produces vacuum potatoes, carrots, and chestnuts, including for the own brands of large supermarkets and for export to Germany.
DEKRA came into play back in 1999 when the company started thinking about its water consumption. “With today’s output, we use about 500 cubic meters of water per day, among other things to wash, peel, and cook vegetables,” says Séverine Pelle, QHSE manager at Allaire. Because beet dyes strongly, the water that flows from the large peeling and washing machines into a gutter in the ground is red like wine.
Optimizing water management
Christophe Grosset from DEKRA assisted the plant management team with a comprehensive improvement of their water management, both in order to save water at the source by optimizing operational processes and to improve wastewater quality by means of purification. “The production machines have been systematically replaced by watersaving equipment,” recalls the DEKRA expert. At the same time, we made the workforce aware of the need to avoid excessive water consumption wherever possible: optimizing the settings of valves and water inlets and avoiding unnecessary drainage. It’s a long learning process.”
The second approach to avoid wasting water is also pretty intelligent. Allaire has its own sewage treatment plant, which is only a few hundred meters away from the factory. In 2005, it was significantly expanded under the technical supervision of Christophe Grosset. Since then, its capacity has been equivalent to the sewage treatment plant of a small town with around 18,000 inhabitants. Since 2012, some of the treated water has been stored in large above-ground tanks and used by an irrigation system for the surrounding fields, where the vegetables that are processed at Allaire grow.
“This circular approach means that farms need less groundwater for irrigation. Up to 60 percent of the purified water is reused in this way,” explains Christophe Grosset. The rest flows into the nearby river La Bonnée.
Saving water through circular economy
And Allaire went even further – on the advice of DEKRA: in 2013 the company invested in a new filter system that uses internally grown reeds. It complements the biological cleaning process with a further step.
The company’s latest project comprises three large sediment basins, which are directly connected to the factory premises. “In this preliminary stage of biological purification, the suspended matter can initially settle,” says Séverine Pelle. The pre-treated and homogenized water is then fed into the treatment plant described above for further treatment. DEKRA was once again involved in every step of the process – right up to the expert report, which enabled government funding of up to 50 percent of construction costs.
All of these measures have helped the company to save a lot of water. Christophe Grosset shows this with a diagram. Between 2017 and today, water consumption has fallen from around 16 liters per kilo of vegetables produced to around 10 liters per kilo. The amount of wastewater reaching the sewage treatment plant is also steadily decreasing. While there were 93,300 cubic meters in 2017, the volume decreased to 66,500 cubic meters in 2021.
The circular principle is not limited to water, as all waste is also recycled. For example, the peels of potatoes and beet are fed back to farmers’ livestock. And the company also ensures that the sedi - ments, which consist of plant fibers and soil residues, are returned to the fields as natural fertilizer.
Up to 60 percent of the purified water is reused.
Christophe Grosset, DEKRA technical expert in France