Heartland Farms shines at energy efficiency

Wisconsin State Farmer

HANCOCK – At Heartland Farms, water and fertilizer are not the only inputs used efficiently.

Jeremie and Alicia Pavelski are shown at the Farm Operations Technology and Training Center. The 37,000 square foot building was constructed in rural Adams County in 2016. It’s powered by 150 photovoltaic solar panels on its roof. “It’s just the right thing to do,” said Alicia, a former electrical engineer. “Plus, I really wanted to do it. We track everything. We’re data junkies.”

Lighting and equipment upgrades made possible with incentives from Wisconsin’s Focus on Energy program have lowered the farm’s annual energy costs by almost $89,000.

“Cutting energy costs improves our bottom line,” explains Jeremie Pavelski, Heartland Farms President. “We are always looking for ways to be cost effective and efficient. These savings improve our competitiveness as a local employer and as a supplier of the national chip potato market.”

Heartland Farms is a fifth-generation family business that grows potatoes, sweet corn, canning peas and green beans on about 24,000 irrigated acres spread across five counties in central Wisconsin.

“Focus on Energy’s programs are a great fit for our farm's philosophy on sustainability. We’re always looking to increase yields while lowering inputs to supply a growing world with a consistent food supply,” Pavelski said. 

Jeremie Pavelski, President of Heartland Farms, was the 2011 WPVGA Young Grower of the Year. He is a 2000 graduate of Amherst High School. In 2002 he graduated from North Central Technical College in Wausau with a degree in computer networking.

Focus on Energy, funded by participating Wisconsin utilities, works with eligible residents and businesses to install cost effective energy efficiency and renewable energy projects.

As one of the nation’s premier suppliers of chipping potatoes, Heartland Farms has storage facilities with the capacity for more than a one-half billion pounds of potatoes. Focus on Energy provided a $35,442 incentive to equip the storage facilities with energy-efficient LED bulbs.

The incandescent and high pressure sodium lights previously used were less than ideal. They were slow to fully illuminate, causing a safety hazard for workers entering a darkened storage bin. The far corners of the bin were never fully lit, which provided less than ideal monitoring conditions. 

Installing LEDs improved safety and monitoring conditions, and saved more than six million kilowatt-hours of electricity; enough to power 69 Wisconsin homes for a year.

Focus on Energy provided a similar incentive for 148 LED fixtures and 130 variable frequency drives (for pumps and conveyors) at Heartland’s potato rinse plant. The lifecycle savings of that project totaled more than 10 million kilowatt hours.

Heartland Farms’ roots trace back to 1873 when Jeremie Pavelski’s great-great grandfather, August Pavelski, started with 80 acres near Amherst Junction in Portage County. The farm incorporated as A.M. Pavelski & Sons Inc. in 1974. Heartland Farms Inc. was formed in 1990 when Richard Pavelski and Dave Knights partnered. In the years since, Knights has helped steward Heartland Farms through a more than ten-fold increase in acreage. Heartland Farms employs about 90 full-time employees and another 80 on a seasonal basis. They also contract with area farmers to grow potatoes for them. August Pavelski’s original 80 acres are still farmed today.

As part of Focus on Energy’s charge to provide technical energy expertise and cash incentives to participating utilities’ electric and/or natural gas customers, energy advisor Jessica Anderson worked closely with Heartland Farms to ensure the projects qualified for incentives. 

Anderson also worked with officials at North Central Irrigation and Adams-Columbia Electric Cooperative when variable frequency drives were installed on Heartland’s irrigation and processing equipment.

The variable frequency drives adjusts well pump speed based on system pressure requirements that change due to ground elevation and the use of a swing arm. This technology is estimated to save nearly 1.5 million kilowatt-hours. It also allows for the use of variable rate irrigation – where each individual nozzle can be turned on or off, independently, to accommodate the soil’s capacity to hold moisture directly beneath it.

The 13 fields with the most variable soil conditions were the first ones chosen for variable rate irrigation. Heartland Farms is home to more than 100 center pivot irrigation systems. Proper irrigation is vital for maintaining yield and quality of a crop highly sensitive to stress from Mother Nature.

“Their commitment to energy efficiency and overall sustainability in all area areas of their operation serves as a great reflection on Wisconsin agriculture,” Anderson said.

Heartland Farms was a 2016 recipient of Focus on Energy’s Excellence in Energy Efficiency Awards that honored 14 businesses and organizations for outstanding energy efficiency dedication and performance.

“Working with Focus on Energy has been a great experience with beneficial results in energy conservation and pursuing our goals,” Pavelski said. “We would definitely recommend their programs to other farms and small businesses.”

To learn how Focus on Energy can help your farm’s bottom line, visit www.focusonenergy.agribusiness.