Borderview Research Farm

Borderview Research Farm

Borderview Research Farm

Feedstock: Sunflowers, canola, switchgrass

Fuel: Biodiesel and grass pellets

Energy Output: Power (for farm machinery) and heat

Services: Oilseed and Grain Grower, Oil milling, Biomass Pelletizing, Fuel Processing, Feed Supply

Owner: Roger and Claire Rainville

Location: Alburgh, Vermont; Grand Isle County

Having sold his dairy herd several years ago and thinking he was heading into semi-retirement, Roger Rainville began experimenting with farm-scale biodiesel production on his family farm in northern Vermont, which literally hugs the Canadian border.

The University of Vermont (UVM) now leases a number of acres from the Rainvilles as Borderview Farm has become one of the best-known applied research facilities in Vermont.  Roger, along with Dr. Heather Darby, a UVM Extension agronomist, and her team have helped transform the former dairy farm, conducting leading research in the Northeast on oilseed crops, perennial grasses, hops, small grains and other crops suitable for small-scale and value-added farming.

rainville farmA small-scale biodiesel production facility, started in 2008, now houses three types of oil mills to test oil extraction and processing efficiencies. Roger gathers a range of data and conducts demonstrations so that area farmers can evaluate first-hand the pros and cons of the different models, then learn how to make and test high quality, homegrown fuel.

Each summer in early August, Heather Darby, her Extension staff and Roger Rainville have held educational field days at Borderview Farm. On average 130-150 participants show up each year for the daylong event. These field days have provided opportunities for farmers from all over Vermont, New England and the nearby Canadian provinces to come together and learn about oilseed crops, biodiesel production, and a wide variety of other crops and value-adding practices taking place on the farm.

In 2005-2007, Borderview Farm was awarded its first VSJF Bioenergy Initiative grant for $25,000 (with a $25,000 cost share) for technical assistance in the form of a professionally documented hazards review and Failure Modes And Effects Analysis (FMEA). This provided critical safety information for Borderview Farm and other potential on-farm biodiesel producers. In 2008-2010, Borderview Farm was awarded $40,000 (with $10,000 cost share) toward the purchase of a BioPro 190 biodiesel production system with an annual production capacity of 10,500 gallons (50 gallons per batch). Other equipment that year included two dry-finish columns, additional plumbing, laboratory gear and plant safety and control equipment. For 2011-2013, $50,000 was awarded (plus $12,500 cost share) to purchase additional grain storage, drying and cleaning equipment and expand the facility. This led to major improvements in the operational capacity and efficiency of Borderview’s oilseed and biodiesel processing research center. In 2012, Roger and Heather Darby reached out to farmers in their county to begin the Grand Isle Farm Fresh Fuel Project. The project brings together nearby farms in the production of sunflowers that Roger will harvest and transport to Borderview. During the fall and winter months, Roger’s daughter Natasha oversees the oil milling and biodiesel production and before the next planting season begins, the participating farms will receive their share of biodiesel for their tractors and the protein-rich sunflower meal for their animals.