Gills Onions is proud to operate one of the largest, most innovative fresh-cut onion processing plants in the world. But since the day we peeled our first onion, we knew that waste was going to be a challenge.
Our 100,000 square foot plant can process up to a million pounds of raw onions in a day, creating an average of 150 tons of onion waste. How could we put that waste to good use?
The answer is Onion Power.
A Better Way to Use Waste
Our vision has always been to explore and implement new technologies that maximize our conservation and improve our efficiency.
When an onion is peeled, nearly 40% is waste. In the past, we trucked this waste — averaging about 250,000 pounds each day — to our nearby farms, where it was worked back into the soil. But this practice wasn’t truly sustainable. It started proving problematic for soil conditions and costly.
After a nationwide collaboration, Gills Onions began using onion remains to generate electricity. The system, dubbed the Advanced Energy Recovery System (AERS), converts onion waste into electricity. In 2009, the AERS officially opened, making Gills Onions the first food processing facility in the world to produce ultra-clean energy from onion remains. The process extracts juice from onion peels and treats it in a high-rate anaerobic reactor. The result is methane-rich biogas, which can be used like natural gas. The remaining pulp or “cake” is sold as high value cattle feed.
Since becoming operational, the waste-to-energy system, produced 25 gigawatt hours of electricity, or enough to power 3,740 California homes for a full year. This groundbreaking system converts onion waste into ultra-clean, virtually emissions-free electricity. We lovingly refer to this process as “Onion Power.”
With Onion Power in place, we eliminate the labor intensive and expensive process of hauling our waste.
Our Commitment to Continued Innovation
At Gills Onions, we know our role extends far past onion growing and processing. We are global citizens with an obligation to preserve and protect our environment. This commitment is central to our values, because we believe it is simply the right thing to do.
In 2019 we expanded our commitment to clean energy by adding a rooftop solar photovoltaic system to the Oxnard plant. Sized at 472 kW, the system has enough capacity to generate 10% of the plant’s electricity demand.
Our goal is to ensure that generations far into the future can enjoy the delicious taste of the world’s best onions.
Ready to try onions grown “The Gill Way”? Contact our sales department to learn more.