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Running the Numbers

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By Glenn Farris

In my last post, I discussed the business plan for Pellet Technology USA (PTUSA) and their strategy for utilization of over 100,000 tons of densely packed corn stover. What makes this undertaking especially interesting is that they will utilize that significant amount of corn stover year after year to create their sustainable business. They aren’t planning to be a one-hit wonder. And that kind of volume isn’t something you can just order online from Amazon.

As we worked with the PTUSA team on providing the overall solution to collect, bale, pick-up, transport and deliver a majority of the corn stover, another key item was in play: the short- and long-term economics for the local market.

As we mentioned in a previous post, within a 50-mile radius of York, Nebraska, there is an estimated 2.5MM tons of ag residue from the corn fields. We will deliver 100,000 tons for this year’s supply. But that is just eight percent of the available residue. Eight percent. So 92 percent is just lying there – literally – waiting to be harvested.

So, let’s say the harvest amount jumps to 15 percent or 20 percent. To harvest it all takes equipment and manpower. And that means jobs. A lot of jobs.

With such enormous potential, PTUSA announced in 2015 that they would build a plant in York, to process and pelletize the ag residue, adding value to local corn, energy and animal producers. In April 2016, construction began, and the plant went online in late November 2016. The project created construction jobs. And, now that the plant is open, there are jobs available at the facility.

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And then – there’s the trickle-down effect. It means jobs in the local market to handle it all. From grocery stores, to cafes, to hotels. Plus it means other jobs, such as trucking and construction.

And then there’s the tax revenue. It goes back into the local economy, generating millions of dollars for the community.

Collection and removal of ag residue is also a new source of revenue for the local farmer. Farmers receive money for every ton of ag residue collected and baled. With the price of corn today being on the downside, that’s money that can help a farmer’s bottom line.

(There is another value, too: taking the ag residue off the land. But we’ll save that for a later post.)

And, just think for a second. What I described is just one local market.

What is the term? Think global, act local?

Think of how much stover is available each year across the Heartland. A lot. As far as the eye can see. So, if there is about 2.5MM tons of residue for every 50 miles, what if there was a plant like York every 50-100 miles? Think how it could drive the economics in those local markets.

Then think, how much stover is available in Nebraska? Or Iowa? Or Kansas?

You get the (big) picture. The potential is huge.

If you start to imagine every harvest season, the symphony of Challenger and Massey Ferguson tractors, flail shredders, Hesston balers running across fields clearing residue and stackers building giant walls of bales at the field ‘s edge. Then trucks transporting the high-density bales to the factories producing pellets for feed stock or fuel – or things we’ve yet to even imagine – you can start to see how this “trash” may be the engine to revive local economies.

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Best of all, its an annual event. It’s renewable. It’s green, and it’s clean.

And with the help of AGCO’s Biomass Solutions team, it could be the answer to a lot of prayers across numerous farming communities.

 

You Need How Much?

 

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By Glenn Farris

What do you do when your business plan calls for over 100,000 tons of densely packed corn stover … and you will process that quantity of corn stover every year–adding value to the local economy in a sustainable way?

It’s not like you can call your local supplier to fulfill the order. No one has that volume of square bales available.

That was the challenge Pellet Technology USA’s (PTUSA) founder Russ Zeeck and Business Strategy Manager Joe Luna faced when they were mapping out their idea for a new company, just a few short years ago.

Luna came to PTUSA from the West Coast. There, he worked in ag, finance and technology. He knew of AGCO and our industry expertise.

He heard that AGCO had been perfecting the process of collecting large quantities of stover and making them into high-density bales. That early work was mainly being done to in the energy market.

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Zeeck then stepped in.  A 30-year vet of the ag and energy industries, he drove and developed his idea to create pellets from corn stover for use as a green energy supplement or as a consistent animal feed product.

But the numbers that came out of the production equations were staggering. Could they actually secure this volume of stover? How would it be harvested? How would it be transported to the facility for processing? Most importantly, could it be delivered year-over-year?

There were so many moving parts that had to be coordinated. Who has the equipment, technology and expertise to make it happen?

“I knew of AGCO from previous projects,” said Luna. “So when we met, they came at this project with the attitude of a partner. They not only have a lot of equipment but they also have a lot of expertise. Remember, we’re still a young company. But to be successful, my thinking was to ‘stand on the shoulders of giants.’ AGCO has several hundred thousand tons of experience, and we wanted to build on that.”

So, the AGCO Biomass Solutions team went to work. Together with the PTUSA team, we mapped out the strategy to secure the plentiful ag residue. From providing the hundreds of pieces of equipment needed from Massey Ferguson tractors, to Hesston windrowers, Hesston high-density square balers, and finally, transportation, our strategy took shape.

Our goal is to help our customers – like PTUSA – create something. And that “something” is changing the way that we think about ag residue.

PTUSA is  creating a business of collecting what used to be considered “trash” in the fields – that left over corn stalk material. In the past, farmers would collect it and use it as bedding for their livestock or to cover the dirt floors of their barns. Or, they would just till it back into the ground. We’ve now found this practice does more harm than good (more on that in a later column).

Once we map it all out, it’s quite literally a “symphony” of collecting the “trash” across a 50-mile radius of fields in Nebraska. But, there is just a 30-60 day window for the AGCO Biomass team to do it all – cut, windrow, bale, pick-up and deliver. And, we’re on track to do just that.

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It means that the 100,000-plus tons of high-density bales that the PTUSA team was imagining – which will fill a 50-acre field, seven bales high – will be sitting next to their new facility in York, in just a few short weeks. And, it’s enough stover to last all year long. Sixty days of hard work for a year’s worth of supply? Not too shabby.

We’ve solved that problem. However, knowing that within a 50-mile radius, there is estimated to be 2.5MM tons of available ag residue, it begs yet another question on this biomass project.  What impact would it have on the local economy, if we could harvest that 2.5MM tons?

We’ll look at that next time.

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Harvesting Pollen: Nothing to Sneeze At

There aren’t many farmers in North America who intentionally plant and nourish weeds on their farm. But Jim Sneed, who farms about 400 acres near Sedalia, Mo., is anything but conventional.

The 10-acre plot of ragweed he plants each year should be proof enough. That’s because Sneed is one of a small number of farmers across the U.S. and Canada who collect pollen from a variety of grasses, trees and weeds, and sell their harvest to pharmaceutical companies that turn the pollen into extracts for treating and testing of allergies.

Jason and Jim Sneed, among the ragweed.

Jason and Jim Sneed, among the ragweed.

Sneed is actually the second generation to manage the pollen collection business, having taken over from his late father, who began collecting pollen back in 1968. Today, Sneed and his wife, Stephanie, along with their youngest son, Jason, run their pollen collection business.

“All total, there are about 50 different plants and trees from which we collect pollen,” he told us last summer. “Of course, we don’t harvest every type of pollen every year. We generally get a list of requests early in the year, so we have time to plant a particular crop if we need to.”

Sneed, who prefers not to share many of his methods and innovations for fear of giving away too many hard-earned secrets, notes that pollen harvesting has little in common with growing corn or soybeans. For starters, there isn’t any equipment commercially available for pollen harvest.

Instead, Sneed designed and built two of his own machines. Tree pollen, meanwhile, is collected with the aid of two bucket trucks.

Sneed also bales many of the grasses and clover he uses for pollen production. For that work he trusts a Massey Ferguson® 2946A model round baler with a silage kit. “It’s been working perfectly,” Sneed relates.

See the full story: Harvesting Pollen: Nothing to Sneeze At

Great Hay Equipment, Great Hay Yields

“I haven’t used anything but Hesston hay equipment since I got into the hay business more than 20 years ago,” Randy McGee says, noting that his current inventory includes a WR9770 windrower and three Hesston by Massey Ferguson® balers on his Idalou, Texas, farm. “The greatest asset right now, though, is the double conditioner on the windrower. It allows me to bale at least a day earlier and usually saves one cutting or more each year from getting rained on.”

McGee shows off alfalfa cut with a double conditioner on his Massey Ferguson WR9770.

McGee shows off alfalfa cut with a double conditioner on his Massey Ferguson WR9770.

“Between the drip irrigation system, which lets me get water on the field quicker than normal, and the double conditioner, which allows me to reduce drying time and get the hay baled and off the field quicker, I’m currently cutting a crop every 21 to 24 days.”

When it comes to baling his hay, though, McGee has three options. Most of the dairy hay is put up in 4- x 4-foot bales with an MF2190 large square baler. However, he also has an MF2846A for round bales that go to local feedyards and a Hesston 4590 small rectangular baler for horse hay.

All three balers, as well as the windrower, were purchased from Livingston Equipment Company in Muleshoe, Texas. Plus, McGee is also getting a fourth piece of Massey Ferguson hay equipment—an RK Series rotary rake—that he can use for a year for having the highest overall relative feed quality (RFQ) score in last year’s Southeastern Hay Contest. (Massey Ferguson joined the program in 2015 as the title sponsor of the event and grand-prize contributor.)

“Until I bought the MF2190 big baler, I had been using an older Hesston 4910,” McGee relates. “The difference is unbelievable. With nearly double the capacity, baling takes a lot less time, which further contributes to the short time plants go without irrigation.”

For more information on the Massey Ferguson WR9770 Windrower or the Hesston by Massey Ferguson balers, see your nearest Massey Ferguson dealer or visit online at masseyferguson.us.

See the full story: This Alfalfa Hay Quality Is Off The Charts

Massey Ferguson 8737: A Legacy of Quality Continues

Being named the 2015 Swisher Sweets/Sunbelt Expo Southeastern Farmer of the Year was very good for Danny Kornegay. Among other prizes, the North Carolina farmer received a year’s use of a Massey Ferguson® 8737 tractor. The prize had a sort of back-to-the-future feel for Kornegay, who recalls as a boy riding and working on a Massey Ferguson 35 Deluxe tractor on his family’s then part-time operation.

Danny Kornegay

Danny Kornegay

The tractors in the 8700 Series, with 8.4-liter, 6-cylinder AGCO POWER™ engines, deliver 270 to 370 max engine HP. An Engine Power Management (EPM) system also offers an additional 30-HP boost when needed to provide more torque and power to a particular application.

“I like the features of the tractor, and it is well built,” says Danny’s son, Dan. “The Dyna-VT™ transmission is very nice because you don’t have to change gears,” says Danny. “The extended cab is really nice, and the comfortable ride may be the best feature.”

This line of tractors also features the new CYCLAIR™ cooling system that increases performance by maximizing air flow through a series of coolers and out through a redesigned hood. Vents in the hood split the air flow to expel hot air, while directing cool, fresh air toward the main radiator.

The 8700 Series tractors can be equipped with front 3-point hitches with a lift capacity up to 11,023 pounds. There is also a newly redesigned rear 3-point hitch that’s easier to use and offers an increased lift capacity of 26,355 pounds.

For more information on the Massey Ferguson 8700 Series tractors, see your nearest Massey Ferguson dealer or visit online at masseyferguson.us.

See the full story: Massey Ferguson 8737: A Legacy of Quality Continues

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