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UVM Extension's Chris Callahan takes notes in the field

UVM Extension’s Chris Callahan takes notes in the field

The Vermont Bioenergy Initiative connects diversified agriculture and local renewable energy production for on-farm and community use by supporting research, technical assistance, and infrastructure development in emerging areas of bioenergy including biodiesel production and distribution for heating and transportation, oil crops for on-farm biodiesel and feed, grass for heating, and algae production for biofuels and wastewater management. Explore the initiative’s extensive and accessible set of bioenergy resources for replication in rural communities across the United States and beyond.

Video

A series of informative educational showcase a range of biofuel possibilities; from research and crop farming to feedstocks and fuel. The videos were developed by the Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund, UVM Extension researchers, KSE Partners, and the Vermont Bioenergy Initiative grantees.

Calculators

Two calculators, developed by UVM Extension, help connect potential costs and profits associated with oilseed production:

Course Work

Textbook

Bioenergy: Biomass to Biofuels; is an innovative new textbook that provides insight into the potential and current advances and benefits of biofuel. Contributions include an extensive list of well-respected university extension programs, such as The University of Vermont Research Extension, as well as numerous national organizations including the US Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratories.

Reports

A variety of reports are available which cover a range of topics including seed preparation and storage:

Technical Advice

Connect directly with the Vermont Bioenergy Initiative’s technical assistance providers:

Oilseeds for Biofuel

  • Heather Darby, Agronomic and Soils Specialist
    • University of Vermont Extension, Northwest Crops and Soils Team
    • (802) 524-6501
    • [email protected]
  • Chris Callahan, PE, Agricultural Engineer

Grass for Heating Fuel

  • Sidney Bosworth, Extension Professor
    • University of Vermont College of Agriculture and Life Sciences
    • (802) 656-0478
    • [email protected]

Algae for Biodiesel

  • Anju Dahiya, Instructor and Principal

 

 

Brandon VT Canola Field Non-GMO canola field in full bloom in Brandon VT Credit: Full Sun Company

Brandon VT Canola Field
Non-GMO canola field in full bloom in Brandon VT
Credit: Full Sun Company

In early 2014 Full Sun Company, a small start-up business was co-founded by Netaka White and Davis McManus. Fueled by an interest to help family farms grow, Full Sun began processing sunflower and non-GMO canola oil crops into specialty food-grade oil and high-protein meal for the farmers. Sunflower and canola oil distribution picked up quickly through local CSAs, farm stores, specialty food shops, health and wellness centers, and direct sales to chefs in the Northeast.

Netaka White previously served as the Vermont Bioenergy Initiative’s (VBI) program director, which directly helped to develop the business model to nurture farm partnerships, both as growers and recipients of oilseed meal – the other product that’s generated from making the oil. At Full Sun oilseeds are pressed with large mechanical machinery, producing oil and a granular meal. The team at Full Sun Company learned a lot about seed storage and oil pressing from the early VBI grantees, such as John Williamson of State Line Farm, and Roger Rainville of Borderview Farm.

The first of the two products, the seed meal, has been used as fuel for pellet stoves, or as is the case with Full Sun, sold as fertilizer for crops, or nutritional meal for livestock. At full operation, Full Sun can pump out one ton of meal per day – necessary to meet the growing demand of such customers as The Intervale in Burlington, Vermont and several local pig, poultry, dairy, and beef producers.

Full Sun Company employee, Zach Hartlyn, moves an off-spec oil barrel for biodiesel production Credit: Full Sun Company

Full Sun Company employee, Zach Hartlyn, moves an off-spec oil barrel for biodiesel production
Credit: Full Sun Company

The second product, the oil, is used as culinary oil for cooking. Staying true to their commitment to an extraordinary culinary product, Full Sun Company diverts any of the oil that does not meet their standards to Vermont Bioenergy Initiative biofuel producers to undergo further processing and become biofuel. Approximately 250-300 gallons of off-spec oil for biodiesel has been processed since February, 2014.

In October, 2014, Full Sun Company halted operation to make room for growth to meet the increased demand for their products and scale up to align with Vermont’s accelerating agricultural economy. White and McManus acquired the former Vermont Soap building in Middlebury, Vermont in order to build a full scale mill and achieve their anticipated greater capacity. Over the course of one of the coldest winters in recent history, the Full Sun team made the renovations and adjustments needed to repurpose the building into the first non-GMO verified oil mill in New England. By March of 2015 Full Sun Company had pressed sunflower and canola seeds to make their first batch of specialty oils. The new operation can yield 130 gallons of oil per day – about 2600 gallons per month!

With no shortage of innovation or ambition, White notes, “David and I are in this with the interest of having a transformative effect on local agriculture and food systems.” Well on their way, the operation is certified GMO free, and the next steps are being taken towards becoming certified organic.

As they grow, Full Sun would like to buy from local grower-suppliers and work with local businesses to package and label feed to be distributed to farmers of varying sizes, from backyard chicken growers to larger operations. Collaborating with Vermont breweries and distilleries is also in queue. Full Sun is working with one local distillery to put together “a package” for farmers so they have markets for profitable grain crops throughout four years of rotation (rye, wheat, sunflowers, etc.) and can offer farmers the indexed prices for these locally grown grains and oilseeds.

Biofuels

Nationally, corn-based ethanol and palm oil based biodiesel are gaining negative attention for their impacts on the environment and food security. But here in Vermont, farms are producing on-farm biodiesel to power equipment and operations on the farm and the local farm community. This is a profoundly different model from national and international biofuel production. Agricultural Engineering and Agronomy Researchers at University of Vermont Extension  in partnership with farmers and the Vermont Bioenergy Initiative have developed a model of local minded, on-farm production of biofuels that can help rural communities transition away from unsustainable models of food, feed and fuel production.

National and global models of corn-ethanol and soy oil-biodiesel production are resulting in large-scale land conversions in some parts of the world, in particular to a loss of native grass and forestland. This type of biofuel production is not happening in Vermont, where bioenergy production incorporates rotational oilseed crops like sunflowers and soybeans on Vermont farms.

Photo Credit – Vermont Farm to Plate

Locally produced biodiesel supports resiliency in Vermont, a cold climate state which is particularly dependent on oil. Over $1 billion leaves the state for heating and transportation fuel costs. Heating and fuel independence by producing on-farm biodiesel provides farmers fuel security which is comparable to that which is sought by Vermont’s local food movement.

The local production for local use model results in two products from one crop: oil and meal (animal feed or fertilizer). By growing oilseed and pressing the seed to extract the oil, farms are creating a valuable livestock feed at home, rather than importing it. The oil can be sold as a food product, used directly in a converted engine or converted to biodiesel for use in a standard diesel engine. In this way, oilseed crops offer flexibility in the end-use of the products. US corn-based ethanol mandates are raising grain costs nationally, making feed expensive for Vermont farmers. Local bioenergy production means farmers produce their own feed, fuel, and fertilizer for on-farm use, at a fraction of the cost and more stable prices. Reduced and stable prices for feed, fuel, and fertilizer can mean improved economic viability for Vermont farms and more stable food prices for Vermont consumers in the future.

Overall viability can be seen in the local production for local use model by considering economics, energy and carbon emissions. Biodiesel production costs of between $0.60 and $2.52 per gallon have been estimated for farm-scale production models, which are generally below market price for diesel fuel. The net energy return in Vermont on-farm biodiesel operations has been estimated at between 2.6 and 5.9 times the invested energy (i.e. more energy out than was required to produce the fuel), demonstrating strong returns and potential for improvement with increased scale. Furthermore, oilseed-based production of biodiesel has been estimated to result in a net reduction of carbon dioxide emissions of up to 1420 lbs. per acre, the equivalent of about 1500 miles of car travel per year.

Categorizing the Vermont biofuel model with national models and trends is inaccurate, considering the innovative and efficient systems benefiting Vermont farmers. While national and international analysis weighs the benefits of food versus fuel, the model is quite unique in Vermont and the food versus fuel challenge is well met. The model developed in Vermont does however have wider-reaching implications in that this can be replicated in rural farm communities across the US.

As John Williamson of Stateline Farm, a Vermont Bioenergy grant recipient says, “100 years ago everyone produced their own fuel; we are just doing that now in a different way.”

 

 

Sunflower Bioenergy

 

Country Folks is a weekly farm paper highlighting the many facets of agricultural life. The publication included an article on two recent webinars on the topic of oilseeds in the Northeast. The article features Roger Rainville, an Alburgh farmer who is growing oilseeds for biodiesel production on his farm, and Penn State and University of Vermont researchers who recently concluded an evaluation of small-scale oilseed presses. 2 Planting switchgrass_Borderview farm_VT

The article talks about growing and harvesting oilseeds, pressing, conversion to biodiesel, and by-product oilseed meal.

Click here to see the full article in Country Folks newspaper.

A report published this week in Nature Climate Change indicated that ethanol made from corn residue can reduce soil carbon and increase CO2 emissions, indicating the harvested leftovers from corn are “worse than gasoline for global warming,” according to the Associated Press, who released the study results.

In Vermont the term “biofuel” and “bioenergy” are commonly used to refer to woody biomass (e.g., chips and pellets), anaerobic digestion (e.g., new manure and food scrap digester at Vermont Tech), and on-farm biodiesel production.

A scale-appropriate model of local bioenergy production for in-state use is being pioneered by farmers and researchers. These emerging renewable energy resources include switch grass for heating, algae production for biofuels and wastewater management, and oilseed crops for on-farm biodiesel production, equipment use, and animal feed. Since 2003, the Vermont Bioenergy Initiative has been funding research, technical assistance, and demonstration projects—along with its partners at the University of Vermont Extension—in order to develop the infrastructure to connect diversified agriculture and local renewable energy production for on-farm and community use. A new website www.VermontBioenergy.com provides a series of written and video resources in these emerging fields of bioenergy.

John Williamson makes biodiesel at State Line Biofuels in North Bennington, Vermont

John Williamson makes biodiesel at State Line Biofuels in North Bennington, Vermont

“Local oilseed biodiesel production for local use is profoundly different from national and international models of biofuel production. While corn-based ethanol and palm oil biodiesel are gaining negative attention for their impacts on the environment and food security, biofuels that are produced and used locally help transition away from unsustainable models of food and fuel production,” states Sarah Galbraith, program manager of the Vermont Bioenergy Initiative. “Local production for local use works well in conjunction with sustainable food production.”

Vermont is particularly dependent on fossil fuels for heating and transportation, sending its energy dollars largely out of state. In the case of locally produced biodiesel, three products can be made from one crop: animal feed, organic fertilizer, and biofuel for heat, transportation, and farm equipment.

US corn-based ethanol mandates are bringing additional acres into mono-crop production, in some cases converting sensitive natural areas like native grasslands and forestland into farmland. In contrast, local bioenergy production for local use incorporates rotational crops like sunflowers and soybeans into acres already in production. Vermont farms growing oilseed crops for biodiesel production are doing so on long-established cropland in the context of diversified and sustainable food production.

The ethanol mandates are raising grain costs nationally, making feed expensive for Vermont dairy farmers. Local bioenergy production, however, means farmers produce their own feed, fuel, and fertilizer for on-farm use, at a fraction of the cost and at more stable prices.

The Vermont Bioenergy Initiative’s newly launched website features an in depth look at oilseed production and biodiesel operations with case studies, research, and educational videos. The website also features similar resources for grass energy and algae for biofuel and wastewater management as well as information on other biofuels being produced and used in Vermont. www.VermontBioenergy.com

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The Vermont Bioenergy Initiative draws the connection between diversified agriculture and local renewable energy production for on farm and community use. Aiming to supply farm inputs and reduce fossil fuel consumption, this program supports research, technical assistance, and infrastructure development in emerging areas of bioenergy. Since 2003 the program has focused on biodiesel production and distribution for heating and transportation, oil crops for on-farm biodiesel and feed, grass for heating, and algae for biofuels and wastewater management. The Vermont Bioenergy Initiative works with biodiesel producers including State Line Biofuels and the Farm Fresh Fuel Project at Borderview Farm and grass pellet research through UVM Extension and is supported financially by US Department of Energy congressional appropriations secured by US Senator Patrick Leahy. The Vermont Bioenergy Initiative is a program of the Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund—a non-profit organization created by the Vermont Legislature in 1995 to accelerate the development of Vermont’s green economy in the fields of renewable energy, sustainable agriculture and forestry.

 

April 8, 2014, 1 p.m. Eastern Time
On-Farm Oilseed Pressing for Fuel and Food
(link to webinar)
Chris Callahan, Extension Agricultural Engineer, University of Vermont 
Douglas Schaufler, Research Associate, Ag Bio Engineering, Penn State

Wondering how oilseed crops like sunflower, soybeans and canola are used on-farm for liquid fuel replacement and feed production? This webinar describes small-scale extraction with examples of different oilseed press usage and and additional processing steps such as filtering and storage. Oil produced on-farm can then be used directly as straight vegetable oil fuel or changed into biodiesel for equipment use. Oilseed meal left following oil extraction is then used for animal feed and other uses. Some farms are diverting a portion of the oil produced into edible oils for consumer sales.

Click here for the NEWBio Webinar Series.

signFeedstock: Sunflowers, certified organic

Fuel: Biodiesel

Co-products: High-protein sunflower meal as feed ingredient

Energy Output: Power (for farm machinery)

Services: Oilseed Grower, Oil milling, Fuel Processing, Feed Supply

Owner: Nick and Taylor Meyer

Location: Hardwick, Vermont

The Meyer family has owned and operated their dairy on a 327-acre farm in Hardwick, Vermont since 1978.  In 2003, when the younger Meyer boys took over the farm where they grew up, they transitioned to organic production. Today, Nick and Taylor produce some of the highest quality milk in the state of Vermont, winning numerous awards and gaining notoriety for their sustainable and innovative approach.

That approach has included efforts to reduce overhead costs by making the farm as self-sufficient as possible.  A Bergy Wind Turbine was erected in 2007 to provide some of the farm’s electricity and Andrew began making biodiesel from waste vegetable oil in 2008.  All the tractors on the farm run on B50 (50% biodiesel & 50% petrodiesel) for the summer and the furnace runs on B15 for the winter months.

“I want to produce everything the farm needs, without buying out (off the farm)” Nick Meyer explains. North Hardwick Dairy (NHD) uses 4,000 gallons of diesel each year (2,000 gallons of diesel for off- road equipment and 2,000 gallons in their furnace).

Read More

sid bosworthThe University of Vermont Extension Northwest Crops and Soils team held their annual Field Day on Thursday, August 1, 2013 from 10:00am to 3:30pm at Borderview Research Farm in Alburgh, Vermont.

Dr. Heather Darby led more than 200 attendees on a tour of research stations at the farm. The theme of this year’s field day was “Strategic Farming – Gearing Up for Weather Extremes.” Tour stops included brief overviews frhannahom researchers and technicians focused on cover crops, irrigation systems, sunflowers for cooking oil and biodiesel, wheat varieties, aerial seeding, hops variety trials and demonstration of a mechanized hops harvester, and demonstration of an oilseed press.

Vermont Bioenergy Initiative was in attendance with the Bioenergy Now! videos along with copies of the report, Vermont On-Farm Oilseed Enterprises: Production Capacity and Breakeven Economics written by Netaka White, formerly of VSJF and now of Full Sun Company, and Chris Callahan with UVM Extension.

More than 20 attendees, many of them farmers, attended the demonstration of the two oilseed presses at Borderview Farm by Hannah Hardwood of UVM Extension and Roger Rainville, owner along with his wife, Claire, of Borderview Farm.