Independent cider producer Aston Manor Cider has created a unique system that uses the River Severn to improve the environmental impact of its new fruit processing facility at Stourport-on-Severn.
During the intensive 12-week apple pressing period there would typically be a need for a significant input to cool the process of concentrating the fresh juice pressed from the apples.
However, in an entirely self-contained system, the business is able to divert water from the river flowing past the site to condense vapours. No water is lost before it is returned to the River Severn and it is only fractionally warmer than when it was taken – with no impact on the wildlife in the area.
The business has an abstraction licence to remove and return water from the Severn all year around.
This imaginative solution negates the need for an unsightly cooling tower that would require high energy demands and chemical costs.
Rodney Clifford, production director at Aston Manor Cider said: “Being able to invest to develop a ‘green’ solution to an issue all other producers face was part of the rationale for selecting this site.
“With consent and co-operation from the water authority we are able to manage the risk of flooding and use our riverside location to our advantage – reducing the impact on the environment and improving the operation of what is an already efficient purpose-built operation.”
Commissioned ahead of schedule last year to process part of the 2013 harvest, the £2m site has benefited from a further investment of £2½m this year, in part to develop the scheme to use river water, and will see a further £2m spent in 2015 to expand capacity.
Gordon Johncox, managing director of the midlands-based business said: “We are delighted that the scheme is working as well as it is. Though confident that we had created a superior solution to a challenging issue, this is the first installation of this kind.
“The sums involved are very large, so it is important that we can deliver the benefits we anticipate.
“That the installation and integration of the scheme has been so successful now enables us to dramatically expand capacity.”
For the 2014 harvest the site processed 6,000 tonnes of apples. In the next five to six years this will rise to around 35,000 tonnes a year.
Aston Manor Cider announced in April 2013 that 1,000 acres of new orchards would be planted to support its growth. The new capacity and capability at the Stourport site is a vital element of the long-term plan of the business.
Gordon Johncox added: “Our planting scheme is vital to our progress as is the purpose-built operation at Stourport-on-Severn.
“We are adding some 350,000 trees to the landscape and we need to have the quality of infrastructure to cope with around 35,000 tonnes of fruit each season in just a few years from now.
“In its own right, Stourport represents a significant investment; however, it needs to be considered in light of the commitment we are making to our growers – on a conservative estimate, we will spend over £50m in the next 25 years on just the apples grown from the planting scheme.
“There will be more besides from our existing orchards and all of that will be pressed here to be used in the delicious ciders we make.”
Rodney Clifford, head cider maker at Aston Manor Cider said: “With considerable investment we have succeeded in dramatically improving both our capacity and capability – we already believed our operations offered greater flexibility than any other cider maker, and this extends that advantage further.”
The apple varieties selected and being planted have been carefully considered to deliver the character and quality of juice required by the cider makers and also to seek to extend the harvest to improve the efficiency of the pressing operation.
Gordon Johncox, added: “Already the largest independent cider maker in the UK, this both signals and supports our intention to work with growers to source the best fruit to be able to make top quality cider.
“It is also recognition of the long-term commitment Aston Manor has to the category – we are a cider business determined to build on the popularity of cider and perry both in the UK and in export markets.”
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