ADVANCING INNOVATION FROM FARM TO TABLE WITH THE LOWEST CARBON FOOTPRINT

Sustainable Development Goals: Goal 12 - Responsible Consumption and Production, Goal 15 - Life on Land Organizations Involved: Harris Ranch Beef Company, City of Fresno, FuelCell Energy, Veolia, Biothane, Biodiesel Technologies, Tetratech Services: Due Diligence Services, Feasibility Studies, Plant Efficiency Upgrades, Due Diligence, Supply Chain Management, Carbon Management, Component Supply

The Challenge:

Since the 1930s, Harris Ranch Beef Company ("HRBC") has remained focused on producing the best tasting, most wholesome products for customers across the globe. Located in California’s Central Valley, HRBC is well equipped to serve the needs of our retail, food service, e-commerce, and export customers. 

The Harris family grew beyond their agricultural roots and, together with the visionary management team at Harris Ranch, built the sophisticated, state-of-the-art cattle feeding and beef processing companies now under the ownership of the Coelho family. Their diversified business has become the largest cattle feeder, beef processor, and beef marketer in California.

With annual sales in excess of $600 million, Harris Ranch Beef Company is one of the largest functionally integrated beef producers in the Western United States. As the processing and marketing arm of their beef division, Harris Ranch Beef Company is proud to have established one of the first branded beef programs in the country in 1982. Harris Ranch partners with dozens of the West’s most progressive ranching families to produce cattle to their quality specifications. Harris Ranch’s beef production system features:

  • Cattle humanely and sustainably raised by Harris Ranch and their ranching partners
  • Cattle are grass raised and grain finished for superior quality
  • Facility consultation and training on livestock handling techniques provided by Dr. Temple Grandin
  • Feed nutritionally balanced and tested for pesticide residues
  • Antibiotics are used only in a therapeutic manner to treat cattle that require medical attention

The beef division of Harris Ranch annually produces and markets in excess of 200 million pounds of beef, making them the largest, functionally integrated beef operation in California. Harris Ranch operates one of the largest cattle finishing facilities in the Western United States. With a feedlot covering nearly 800 acres, Harris Feeding Company has a capacity to feed and finish up to 120,000 head of cattle at one time.

Continuing innovation at Harris Ranch keeps them competitive in the beef industry. They stay informed of cutting-edge research regarding matters that concern consumers. Harris Ranch is a leader in animal welfare practices and environmental sustainability, and they maintain the highest standards of food safety and quality assurance.

Harris Ranch continually strives to produce the highest quality beef in the world. As a part of its continued commitment to animal welfare, the environment, and innovation Harris engaged Klean Industries to take a deep dive into numerous aspects of their business to bring technology innovation to the forefront of their operations. After 80 years of doing business, a lot of things have changed in the technology space, and the key findings that need modernization were:

Historical Operations: Furture Operations:
  • Brand recognition
  • Utility & fuel costs
  • Wastewater discharge 
  • Waste minimization & utilization
  • Reducing carbon emission footprint
  • Cash flow and reduction of operation costs
  • Become the world’s greenest beef producer
  • Offset by fuel-cell integration
  • Integrated digester & biogas production CCP
  • Streamlined Operations “Triple Bottom Line”
  • Lowest carbon footprint beef producer
  • Enhanced biodiesel production from waste

The Solution: 

Work began in August 2008, to conduct detailed energy and waste audits combined with a lifecycle analysis of potential technology solutions and their impact on HRBC business from a long-term, holistic point of view.  To address the above-mentioned issues, the KleanTeam developed a comprehensive plan that would not only improve the financial performance but also radically enhance HRBC's environmental performance in such a way that HRBC's leadership position in farm to table in producing the lowest carbon footprint beef in the marketplace while setting the gold standard in sustainable beef production.  

Klean Industries' energy solutions profile for the HRBC project required the use of the best commercially available technologies ("BCAT"). This meant that all technology solutions must be proven and are required to have the lowest carbon emission profile possible. Additionally important were capital costs, implementation timelines, and operating costs to ensure a high internal rate of return on investment.

Understandably, HRBC was also not interested in a change in its core business meaning that the solutions presented had to be integrated seamlessly with their core business and should not interfere with its ongoing operations. Another key consideration was that the proposed solutions could only use feedstock produced as a part of HRBC's core operations as acquiring additional feedstock was not an option. This is a fit-for-purpose solution based on a data analytics review of business growth over an 80 year period with the sole focus of creating outstanding brand recognition globally. Based on this criterion and what technology solutions make the most sense?

Integration: Four Unique Issues & Four Unique Solutions

Wastewater: Reduce the use and consumption volume of water substantially to levels below industrial norms for beef processing and treat the critical wastewater issues, with an innovative and proven integrated wastewater treatment system that produces biogas. Make better use of feedlot manure and co-combine manure with specific volumes of wastewater in an integrated anaerobic digester plant to increase biogas production and clean water. This leads to less water usage and less waste in a water-scarce region, that one day in the near future could be metered.

Energy: Reduce the beef processing plant consumption of electrical energy during peak demand and find innovative solutions to produce or procure green energy. Offset the high-cost energy demand with low-cost and self-generated power using an integrated fuel cell plant fueled by the biogas produced via integrated wastewater and anaerobic digester treatment plant 100% of the power needed to run the entire beef processing plant is offset with extra capacity sent into the grid as an added revenue driver.

Waste: Eliminate all the waste specifically produced from the processing of beef by converting waste materials into 10m gallons of value-added biodiesel which can be used to offset tractor and refrigerated trailer fuel costs. Surplus fuel can be sold in the open market as a revenue driver from biofuel sales. Utilize the glycerin by-product from biodiesel production as a fuel feedstock in the wastewater treatment plant to produce "rocket-fueled" biogas; microbes love glycerin which significantly improves the volume and quality of biogas production. 

Risk: Reduce transportation costs of waste from beef processing being rendered offsite. This reduces pathogen exposure from food processing. An integrated facility creates better transparency and the public understanding of what a truly sustainable brand achieves by removing the risk factors and focusing on a “Triple Bottom Line” approach. 

The Outcome:

The realization that beef can be farmed in such a way that integrated systems create symbiosis which can radically improve both the environmental performance and financial outcome of traditional businesses. These integrated solutions when combined, create massive and lasting benefits for generations to come. While at the same time positively reinforcing a company's commitment to the never-ending pursuit of bettering itself for the benefit of its customers and the planet. Total project costs on a turn-key basis were US$ 70m which included the wastewater treatment plant, rendering plant, biodiesel plant, and fuel cell power plant, not including full Renewable Portfolio Standard ("RPS") grants for the fuel cell plant and biodiesel blenders tax credits which delivered a 65% return on investment. 

The end result once again proved that incremental process improvements with the right plan, technologies, and integration solutions can make lasting process improvements. These kinds of projects are truly amazing and radically benefit future generations. This project illustrates how farm-to-table can be done by creating a symbiosis between waste and food. At Klean Industries we take a holistic approach to the preservation and conservation of finite resources, below are the key attributes of this project:

  • Reduction of wastewater and production of clean water via integrated wastewater treatment technologies
  • Creation of green biogas from waste used to produce 3MW of renewable electrical power
  • Offset transportation waste by eliminating offsite disposal from the beef processing plant and integrating rendering onsite to produce feedstock for the integrated biodiesel plant
  • Production of 5 million gallons of biodiesel annually for use in a fleet of 250 tractor and trailer refrigeration units to deliver quality beef products to market, using green diesel fuel
  • Renewable Portfolio Standards ("RPS") State and Federal grants covered all of the costs associated with the fuel cell power plant and equipment for the production of 3MW green electricity
  • Creation of more cleantech jobs in an industry rapidly undergoing automation
  • Creation of economic development and new skills training in the circular economy
  • Over 90,000 metric tonnes of carbon emissions offset
This project addresses the SDGs by taking into account the following goals and associated targets. It contributes to ensuring sustainable consumption and production patterns by coming up with a sustainable waste treatment framework (Goal 12). Through a safe and inclusive waste disposal system, the SDG strives to protect ecosystems and prevent biodiversity loss (Goal 15).