Woolwich Observer / Observer Xtra
Energrow Inc. press system allows producers to feed oilseeds in, get fuel
and feed out the other end
BY: STEVE KANNON
Having grown up on a farm, Jasmin Hofer knows the importance of cost-saving measures. Take, for instance, the rising cost of diesel fuel, a key ingredient in the daily operation of most farmsteads. Identifying that expense and the growing environmental awareness, she saw a place for a do-it-yourself fuel solution: vegetable oil. To that end, the recent University of Waterloo grad and her father, Ernst, developed a farm-scale vegetable oil press and production system. On May 17, their Energrow Inc. will unveil the unit during an open house at the Newton, Ont. facility.
The goal is to have farmers produce their own feed and fuel directly on the farm. The new press, the EE 3700, creates two main bio-products: meal (a palatable animal feed high in natural proteins and energy) and vegetable oil. The pure vegetable oil produced by the Energrow system has a variety of uses, ranging from eco-friendly fuel for tractors and generators to lubricant and feed additive. “We were looking for a solution for our farm. On a visit to Europe, we saw farmers coming up with new ideas, such as using straight vegetable oil as fuel,” she said of the company’s genesis two years ago. She and her father came back with some ideas, developed a prototype and put it to work on their farm, then a dairy operation.
“It was great. It worked really well for our farm.”
So much so that they switched the operation over to cash cropping, and launched Energrow in 2006. After much consultation and experimentation, the first production unit is now ready. The unit, about the size of three refrigerators, presses the oilseeds, allows the sediment to settle, filters the oil and turns the meal into ready-to-use pellets. “It’s plug-and-go,” Hofer explained. “A farmer can load it on his truck, take it home, plug it in and get started.” Output is dependent on the crop used. For soybeans, one tonne would yield about 100 litres of oil and 850 kilograms of meal. With canola or hemp, the oil volumes would be almost double.
Even at a cost of about $30,000, the press has a relatively quick payback period, especially as fuel costs continue to grow, she said. “We did a model with a dairy farm with 100-150 cows – the operation had a breakeven point of two to three years.” It’s difficult to establish a per-litre cost for the vegetable-oil-turned-fuel because that figure would depend on the volume produced and how the farmer would price the feedstock being used, plus how he or she amortizes the cost of the press. Still, 30 or 40 cents a litre is a workable figure, she suggested. The economics of the company’s press is what makes it attractive to farmers, who are always in need of cost-saving measures. This one comes with the bonus of being green.
“Energrow benefits more than just farmers. Its durable and energy-efficient press produces an eco-friendly, carbon neutral fuel – straight vegetable oil, which reduces harmful greenhouse gas emissions.” As well, the units are designed and produced with a go-local philosophy. “That’s key for us – to support the local economy,” said Hofer.
The technology will be on display at an open house event May 17, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., at Energrow’s Newton location, 7389 Road 128. John Wilkinson, Ontario Minister of Research and Innovation, and Ed Danen, president of Perth County Federation of Agriculture will speak at 10:30 a.m. prior to the unveiling of the Energrow system. “What we’re trying to do is connect the government, farmers and the whole community to show that this technology works,” she said of the open house.
For more information, call (519) 595-8299 or visit www.energrow.ca