Last week, farmers in and around the Sarnia area visited two field-sites to see first-hand the process of collecting corn stover and wheat straw from their fields to be repurposed into feedstock and other products as part of the introduction and launch of the newly incorporated Cellulosic Sugar Producers Co-operative (CSPC).
It has been four years of research and development in the making with the AGRIS Co-operative board of directors in the forefront of the project from the beginning stages of contemplation, starting in 2012.
“The co-op is ready to sign up members and is looking for 55,000 contracted acres from local farmers," says Jim Campbell CSPC secretary and AGRIS Co-op general manager.
Plans are underway with Comet Biorefining to build the manufacturing plant in Sarnia in 2018 that will receive the crop residue for processing. Andrew Richard, one of the founders of the London-based company, said Comet is not just wanting to buy stover from the farmer but more importantly sees the relationship as a partnership. “Collecting the stover needs to be done sustainability and economically,” he says. “We leave two thirds of the crop residue on the field for biological processes and ground cover; and we we are using the right equipment to deliver the stover to the bio plant at an efficient industrial level.”
"The new co-op will be 100 per cent farmer-owned and when all said and done, the co-op will invest in the bio refining plant, owning 30 per cent of the facility,” says Campbell. Farmer-owners will receive money for the raw materials they supply and receive a return on investment from the plant.
"All in, this is a 70 million dollar expenditure, of which 11 million dollars will be farmer-invested money," says Campbell. “Farmers should be the ones who are investing, benefiting and sharing in the value chain; and this is just the beginning!”
|Dave Park, CSPC president talks about how they are building a market for an |
underutilized crop residue. "This is a good way to add value to our corn crop," he says.
Collecting the stover:A tractor pulls a Hiniker flail chopper making 40-foot windrows. Then a Massey Ferguson 2270 HD baler collects the crop residue and produces three-ft. by four-ft. by eight-ft. bales which each weigh (on average) 1500 lbs. The bales are then collected with a ProAG bale picker and stacker that retreives 12 bales per run and piles them effortlessly and neatly at the end of the field.
CSPC will be hosting a series of town-hall meetings next month to answer questions from interested farmers.