Still in its early stages in North America, the harvesting and processing industry for cellulosic ethanol now has something to show for years of research and planning in the form of three new cellulosic ethanol plants.
Bill Levy, chief executive officer of PacificAg, believes the North American biomass industry is poised for growth. “Over the next decade or so, it will become a major market,” he says.
Two of the three new cellulosic plants are in Iowa—one operated by DuPont in Nevada; the other in Emmetsburg is run by South Dakota-based ethanol producer POET/DSM—and both process corn stover. The other facility—located in Hugoton, Kan., and run by Abengoa Bioenergy Biomass—uses some wheat straw in addition to corn and milo stover, all of which is supplied exclusively by PacificAg.
For every 180 bushels of grain, the average producer will have about 4.3 tons of stover. To maintain sufficient organic matter in the soil and to prevent erosion, the USDA advises leaving an average of 2.3 tons per acre on the ground. Studies have shown that leaving too much residue can increase the likelihood of disease the following spring, make planting more difficult and use up nitrogen.
“The biggest benefit we bring growers is an alternative method for managing high residue,” says Denny Penland, business development manager for DuPont Cellulosic Ethanol. “And it also produces a platform for producing next year’s crop of corn.”
In Canada, there are currently no biomass plants online or in the works, but Charles Lalonde, a project manager with the Ontario Federation of Agriculture, says he expects that’s going to change in the next few years. He says there will soon be demand for corn stover and wheat straw inside Canadian borders.
“With corn stover, we’re trying to develop a market for it in bioprocessing,” Lalonde explains. He anticipates that facility will focus on using cellulosic material to produce sugars for use in various biochemical productions.
U.S. plants making ethanol from grains, mainly corn, are currently at capacity, producing 12 billion to 13 billion gallons annually. “Right now, the industry is waiting for the cellulosic side of these projects to get up and running,” Levy says. By comparison, it’s estimated that the new plants will be able to produce around 75 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol a year.
Plans for seven new cellulosic ethanol plants have been announced by the USDA, three of which will use agricultural waste, while the others will use resources like wood chips, wood waste and municipal solid waste.
And while the bulk of the U.S. market now is corn stover, Glenn Farris, AGCO’s manager of segment strategy for biomass/industrials, expects a market for dedicated energy crops to emerge, such as Miscanthus and switchgrass.
Farris says he believes that by 2030 more producers will see 300 bushels of corn per acre. That means 8 to 10 tons of stover per acre on the ground within the next 15 years.
Says Levy, “I think we’re going to see a revolution in the biomass market in the years to come. As the world turns to renewable energy, agriculture is going to be a direct benefactor.”
AGCO engineers from around the globe participate in Plugfest to improve interoperability of precision equipment and data
By Ben Craker
AGCO engineers from around the globe recently participated in the Agricultural Industry Electronics Foundation (AEF) spring Plugfest in Lincoln, Nebraska. The annual event brings together tractor, terminal, and implement manufacturers from around the globe to test compatibility with each other under the ISO11783 standard for agricultural machine communications. Participants at Plugfest bring the terminals and Electronic Control Units (ECU) used in their machinery to test compatibly with other manufacturers. Historically there have been slight differences in interpretation of the ISO11783 standard between companies, sometimes resulting in incompatibilities. The event gives ag equipment manufacturers a chance to test with many different manufactures in one location to identify any issues.
The recent launch of the AEF ISOBUS Database website earlier this year at the SIMA show in France has given additional structure to the ISO11783 standard. Manufacturers that participate in the ISOBUS database must have their software and hardware conformance tested by independent third party test labs to verify adherence to the standards. The overall ISO11783 standard has been broken down into multiple, different functionality tests ranging from universal terminal support to automatic section control and georeferenced data logging. Using the database, farmers are able to select from machinery that has been conformance tested to see what functionalities will work with various different tractor and implement combinations.
In addition to the Plugfest event, several meetings took place during the week. The AEF organization is broken up into multiple different working groups, each with their own teams focused on specific projects. The working groups are composed of members from many different manufactures from all over the world; the event gives them an opportunity to meet face to face and work on their areas of focus. This year also saw a meeting between the AEF working group focused on Farm Management Information System (FMIS) communication and the AgGateway SPADE and ADAPT teams. The two groups identified areas where they can collaborate – minimizing the duplication of effort – while working toward better communication between manufactures to simplify the process of moving farmers’ data between different machines and software.
AGCO’s involvement in organizations like AgGateway and AEF and participation at events like Plugfest are examples of the Fuse® Technologies open approach and mixed fleet focus. These groups are continuously working so that precision farming technology will be easier to use when a grower has multiple brands of equipment. The work done by engineers and other personnel from AGCO and other companies moves the entire industry forward toward a goal of interoperability of precision equipment and data.
Ben Craker is a Manager for AGCO’s Advanced Technology Solutions group, focusing on Global Partnerships and Standards for Fuse Technologies. Connect with Ben on Twitter @crakerb.
Families and other members of the public who are looking for a fruit-growing enterprise to visit during this year’s Open Farm Sunday on 7 June should have no difficulty finding one in the traditional areas of Kent, Herefordshire or Somerset.
But what about Aberdeenshire…?
One of the UK’s most successful fruit producers is to be found at Castleton, close to the town of Fordoun, on the road between Dundee and Aberdeen. Farmed by the Mitchell family since 1992, Castleton Farm once supported a dairy herd, but its 710 acres are now dedicated to arable and fruit – strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and cherries, to be specific.
The cool Scottish summers in this northerly location provide the ideal conditions for berry production, with a mid-May to early November growing/picking season. At its peak, up to 350 workers from Eastern Europe are employed, together with seasonal staff who are engaged all year round.
In 2009 Castleton Farm was awarded the accolade of “Soft Fruit Grower of the Year” and in 2010 a purpose-built packhouse and refrigeration unit were constructed to further increase its fruit capacity.
The bulk of the Mitchells’ £5 million-plus annual production goes to Marks & Spencer and Tesco, with local sales – including the modern Castleton Farm shop outlet – accounting for 3 per cent of the total.
All produce bound for the supermarket sector is marketed and sold by Berrygardens, a growers’ co-operative consisting of 63 producers – 10 of which are in Scotland and account for 23 per cent of the group’s total volume. Combined annual turnover is now well in excess of £200m.
Last year, Castleton Farm welcomed visitors from across the region during the Open Farm Sunday initiative. “It went really well,” Ross Mitchell recalls. “We had been encouraged to take part by Marks & Spencer, who are our biggest customers.
“The visitors experienced exactly what goes into growing their soft fruit. I think most of them had never realised just how much work was involved.”
In addition to Open Farm Sunday, Castleton last year acted as a host farm for the International Federation of Agricultural Journalists conference, one of the main sponsors of which was Massey Ferguson.
“Apart from running a MF 7620 ourselves as the farm’s main workhorse tractor, Massey Ferguson is lending us another tractor for the purposes of this year’s Open Farm Sunday”, says Ross.
“I think it’s very important that the public – our customers – see that farmers, suppliers and manufacturers work together as one joined-up industry. Open Farm Sunday represents a good opportunity for us to help get that message across.”
Lindsay Haddon, Advertising & Sales Manager at Massey Ferguson, couldn’t agree more. “We’re delighted to be supporting such a great initiative as Open Farm Sunday,” she says.
“Like Ross and his family, we are very keen to encourage the public – our ultimate customers – to find out how their food is produced. As a responsible manufacturer, we will back our farmers in any way we can to get these important messages across.”
Details of farms throughout the UK set to welcome visitors to this year’s Open Farm Sunday event on 7th June can be found at www.farmsunday.org.uk
Agricultural Dealers Carrs Billington, teamed up with Newton Rigg College to host Grassland North for the second occasion on 13th May 2015. An event created three years ago due to demand for a grassland focused exhibition in the North of England, brought together a wide range of suppliers to Sewborwens Farm at Penrith, Cumbria.
Wanting to provide more than just a static display, Grassland North has become an educational and informative day out for farmers in the region. It was also the first time in the UK that bales were wrapped in pink to support Breast Cancer Awareness and Breakthrough Cancer. The pink bale wrap has been produced by Volac and is in high demand thanks to the display on the day.
Support for the event was best demonstrated by the machinery suppliers to Carrs Billington, who had over six million pounds worth of the most advanced equipment functioning. Liz Philip, Executive Principle of Askham Bryan, the group behind Newton Rigg College, said ‘it was a superb demonstration of modern commercial agriculture for both student and industry alike, and it was a pleasure to work with Carrs Billington in putting on such an event’.
Local farmers, contractors and enthusiasts, along with those from as far afield as Nottingham and Scotland, visited on the day to make the most of the May sunshine and were able to enjoy local ice-cream and refreshments, take tours around the state of the art £2.4 million dairy unit, and to see a vast range of machinery from Massey Ferguson and Fendt tractors, Krone and Kuhn grassland equipment, slurry and muck applicators, ATV’s, trailers and so much more. An estimated 3,500 people attended the event. Rae Tomlinson, Managing Director of Carrs Billington said ‘Carrs Billington were delighted to stage this event for the second time, fortunately we were blessed with good weather and the event was clearly an enjoyable, informative success and I would like to thank Newton Rigg and our suppliers, Carrs personnel and most of all our customers without whom it would not have been the success it clearly was.
MF7615 Series surpasses New Zealand Dairy farmer and contractor’s expectations for hedge mulching business.
Contractor and dairy farmer Robert Klaus has great partnerships.
The first is with his wife Sharon who loves her cows and runs the dairy farm. The second is with Massey Ferguson, and their MF7615 tractor, the backbone of Robert’s hedge-cutting business.
Robert and Sharon bought their first dairy farm near Matamata. They’d been share milking for seven years, working up to managing a 500-cow herd. Now they have their own property where they milk 150 cows on 52 effective hectares.
It’s a small farm and dairy payouts are looking questionable for this coming season, so it is good Robert has his contracting sideline. Besides he loves machinery.
“I’d been working for a mate who owns a contracting business for the last eight years and I wanted to do something myself. Sharon enjoys milking, and I could see a gap in the market mulching barberry hedges.”
Robert looked at second-hand cutters but couldn’t find anything good enough so he had the local engineers design and build one for him. It’s like a giant mower tilted on its side with two big blades, and a shroud around it. It mulches the hedges and leaves everything tidy.
Robert got the Massey Ferguson 7615 in December from Matamata tractors.
“I needed a six-cylinder machine with a long wheel base because the hedge-cutter is mid-mounted. I got the Dyna-VT variable transmission as it goes down to 0.3 kph. I use it in foot mode. I just take my foot off and it stops. I hardly ever use the brake or clutch. It’s like driving a big forklift.”
The hedge cutter runs off the tractor’s hydraulics and all the operations for the rams on the cutter are controlled from the factory joystick in the cab.
“I saved a lot of money, as I didn’t have to fit an after-market joystick,” Robert says.
The joystick also has a forward/reverse button so he doesn’t have to move his hand during operations. He can constantly look at where he’s going and what the mulcher is doing.
The cutter is mounted on the left side of the tractor, and Robert says it is “a piece of cake getting in and out the right door. In some other brands it was just about impossible to get out.”
There are dual wheels on the cutter side to help balance the weight of the machine.
“I’ve got a bigger footprint on the left side, which makes it more stable. Otherwise, if I hit a hole the cutter would drop when I’m trying to keep the hedge straight.”
He doesn’t fit duals on the right side, as it would make the tractor too wide to get through gateways.
The MF 7615 produces 150hp from a Tier 4a AGCO Power SCR engine, which uses AdBlue to minimise toxic emissions.
“It’s no problem. I fill AdBlue every third tank of diesel. It’s got a gauge telling me when its low, and I always keep a bit on hand.”
He says anyone can jump in and drive the tractor. “It’s what I like about them. “They’ve got all the technology but it’s user-friendly. Everything is simply laid out.”
The cab also meets with his approval.
“It’s awesome – comfortable and really quiet. That stood out when I first drove it. People ring me and ask what I’m doing because they can’t even hear the hedge-cutter working.”
Robert says the serviceability is also good. “You don’t have to pop the bonnet to check the oil. And if you need to blow out the radiator, it’s right there and easy to get at.”
The MF 7615 is available in three different specifications: Essential, Efficient and Exclusive. Robert got the Efficient.
He’s had great service from Matamata Tractors.
“When we were building the hedge-cutter they helped the engineer to shift the diesel, hydraulic and AdBlue tanks, and nothing was ever a problem.”
This isn’t Robert and Sharon’s first dealing with Massey Ferguson tractors. They also run a MF5460.
They’ve had the MF 5460 for four years. It’s 120hp with a Dyna-4 transmission.
“I always liked Fergies and Matamata Tractors did a good deal I couldn’t pass up. I just like the tractor. It’s got everything we need but is still basic to operate,” Robert says.
“It’s really reliable and nothing has gone wrong with it. On the big farm it pulled the silage wagon. Now it has an auger bucket for feeding out on a pad. It also does the mowing and all the farm work.
He says both the Fergies are very quiet tractors, with everything well laid out, at your fingertips.