Saudi Poultry Industry Eyes Solar-Diesel Hybrids

The agricultural industry in Saudi Arabia is looking to reduce fuel costs and increase energy efficiency with solar-diesel hybrid solutions. In particular, the poultry industry could greatly benefit from using solar-hybrid generators replacing traditional diesel generators. The technology was discussed in Riyadh leading up to the Desert Solar Saudi Arabia conference taking place September 17-18, 2014.

“Hybrid solar-diesel systems are an effective solution to provide power to poultry houses, many of which are not connected to the national electric grid. Solar-based solutions are well adapted to the Kingdom’s sunny Desert Solar Aerialconditions, and they can help reduce the poultry industry’s heavy reliance on diesel fuel,” said Mark Webster, agribusiness and food practice lead at PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC). Webster was addressing the Sustainable Agriculture: A Solar Solution roundtable, which was organized by the Saudi Arabia Solar Industry Association, in partnership with PwC and Dar Solar.

As a result of the heavy dependence on diesel fuel, Saudi poultry producers, accounting for nearly 79 percent of the Kingdom’s poultry import, are incurring notably higher energy costs than Brazilian producers due to their heavy dependence on diesel fuel.

“Domestic producers are expected to double national poultry production in the next few years, creating even further pressure on the demand for diesel fuel. A hybrid solar-diesel system will help poultry producers remain competitive against imports by ensuring a secure and affordable source of power to cool their poultry houses,” added Webster.

At present, domestic poultry production accounts for only 40-45 percent of the Saudi market. However, the share is expected to increase to 60-65 percent in the next 5-10 years, due to massive investments in additional production capacities planned by the top Saudi producers. Continue reading

Genera Energy Introduces BIN-SPEC

Genera Energy has introduced a new feedstock management program module to reduce biomass feedstock variability: BIN-SPEC. According to the company, the preprocessing system delivers a consistent biomass product to a customer’s specifications with the least amount of variability and at a lower cost.

“After producing and harvesting a biomass crop, significant processes and steps must take place to convert a field crop into a uniform format feedstock with the exact size, chemical composition and moisture to meet the needs of each end user,” explained Kelly Tiller, Ph.D., CEO and president of Genera Energy. “We are now able to announce BIN-SPEC as the final link in our proprietary biomass supply chain management system.”

Genera-BIN_SPEC-Graphic-300x171Along with Genera’s other feedstock management systems, Energy Grange and Supply ASSURE, BIN-SPEC was developed through years of R&D and in-the-field testing aimed at consolidating and simplifying the entire biomass feedstock process, offering benefits to landowners, farmers and feedstock end users for the biofuels, biochemical and biopower industries.

While much research has focused on feedstock specific conversion technologies, Genera Energy noticed a gap in the study and field tests of biomass particle size during the preprocessing phase and as a result, developed BIN-SPEC to address this and other problems, offering a repeatable solution that reduces costs, increases efficiencies and provides a consistent product for end users.

Genera’s BIN-SPEC preprocessing management system looks at every step before, during and after preprocessing for each specific end user, assuring a tailored feedstock product specifically for use with BIN-SPEC designated equipment that will produce a biomass product with the least variation. While preprocessing biomass feedstocks is not new, Genera has focused on improving the process by reducing energy consumption, increasing efficiencies, and optimizing the process. This optimization ultimately leads to a lower cost, more consistent feedstock for the end user.

Keith Brazzell, Genera Energy COO notes that variation in feedstock product can be a costly problem for refineries. That was why BIN-SPEC was developed – to add value to a customer’s conversion process.

RFA: Rail Congestion Must Get Resolved

Bob Dinneen, president and CEO of the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) is speaking out again on the problems of rail congestion that is slowing down the delivery of ethanol and ethanol byproducts across the country. He submitted written testimony to the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation that held a hearing yesterday to examine rail congestion and the harmful impact it has had on agriculture and other commodities.

Dinneen stressed the role that Bakken Crude rail shipments have played in increasing dwell times and decreasing train speeds and pointed toward the negative impact these delays are having on ethanol producers. “The rail system didn’t collapse last winter because of a snow drift in North Dakota,” he said. “It was because of a 400% increase in oil shipments from the Bakkens.”

RailcarsIn the written testimony Dinneen said, “The recent crisis of congestion that has seemingly overtaken the rail industry has become a huge and costly problem … This crisis is one that is causing significant harm to the economic health and well-being of our nation’s economy, as well as driving up costs for a wide array of commodities that rely on the rail for transportation…it is becoming more and more apparent that surging crude oil shipments are coming at the expense of other goods and commodities.”

Listen to Dinneen’s comments here: RFA CEO Bob Dinneen comments on rail situation

Food, Water Security Focus of Water for Food Event

The role of data in wWFF_cvent_banner_670px_nogates2ater and food security will be explored in the upcoming Water for Food Global Conference taking place in Seattle, Washington October 19-22, 2014.

Global food demand is growing. With a changing climate and increased competition for scarce water resources, people are now faced with the complex challenge of needing to double agricultural production by 2050 with less water than is used today. A topic of interest is how to use the tremendous amount of data we now have—from technology ranging from remote sensing to smart mobile devices—to effectively address this problem.

Water for food logoHosted by the Robert B. Daugherty Water for Food Institute at the University of Nebraska in association with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, “Harnessing the Data Revolution: Ensuring Water and Food Security from Field to Global Scales,” will bring together international experts in the fields of science, technology, policy and practice to discuss potential solutions to achieve a more water and food secure world. The conference will focus specifically on how data can improve the productivity and sustainability of small and large farmers.

Don’t miss your chance to be part of this important discussion. The early registration discount ends September 18, 2014. For more details, visit waterforfood.nebraska.edu/wff2014/.

AMRC Looks at Ethanol Plant Profitability Projections

Don Hofstrand, retired agriculture extension economist with the Agricultural Marketing Resource Center (AMRC) located at Iowa State University, has recently published projections for ethanol plant profitability over the next several years. When the ethanol boom really took off, Hofstrand noted that most farmers purchased shares in ethanol plants as a way to hedge against low corn prices. So AMRC began to look track the monthly profitability of ethanol plants.

hofstrandfigure5_E2C7BA3AB4D47“We track the monthly profitability by using the current ethanol prices, the current corn prices, distillers grains (DDGs) and natural gas. Each month we compute that and have a record going back to 2005 of how the profitability of those systems have changed over that period of time to give a indication of the current economic status of ethanol production and biodiesel production,” explained Hofstrand.

Today it appears that there is a saturated ethanol market that may cause an excess of corn supplies. However, Hofstrand said that over the past few years corn prices have been high taking a bite out of ethanol production profits. He finds there will be substantial uncertainly surrounding the ethanol selling price and net returns to the ethanol supply chain. This could be affected by rising corn production costs and where they will trend in the future is uncertain. He also finds that although energy prices may soften, interest rates are expected to strengthen, and with continued improvement in genetics, seed cost may continue to rise, but the rise may be offset by higher yields.

Ultimately, Hosftrand said that what is certain is that corn selling prices need to stay relatively strong in relation to historic levels to continue generating farm operator net returns from the marketplace.

Summit Group Building Brazilian Corn Ethanol Plant

Alden, Iowa-based Summit Group announced a project to build the first modern corn ethanol plant in Brazil during the 2014 Farm Progress Show. The project will consist of a US$140 million ethanol plant near Lucas do Rio Verde in Mato Grosso, a leading agricultural state in west central Brazil and the country’s largest producer of corn and soybeans. The project is being financed by Summit Group’s private equity group U.S. Farmland Fund and the company partnering with Fiagril and will be developed by ethanol technology company ICM and built by agribusiness company Marino Franz.

Bruce Rastetter Summit GroupI asked Rastetter “Why Brazil” and he answered that outside of the U.S. they believe this country will play the biggest role in feeding the world. “One of the interesting parts in particular about Mato Grosso is because of improved genetics they’re able to double crop. So they are able to raise the first crop of soybeans and the second crop of corn or cotton so they have increasing corn production in the middle of the continent where it is difficult to get it out. So they are embracing value-added agriculture,” explained Rastetter.

So what is the difference between the early U.S. ethanol plants and the modern corn ethanol plant that will be based in Brail? Rastetter said they are partnering with Colwich,Kansas-based ICM and CEO Dave Vander Griend has been traveling to Brazil with Rastetter and his team for a few years. While the majority of the technology will be the same with an improvement on high protein low fiber DDGs (dried distillers grains) – a just patented process for livestock feed.

The ethanol will stay in Brazil since the Government in Brazil wants to increase the ethanol blend from 25 percent to 27 percent. I also asked him about the environmental footprint of growing corn in Brazil and Rastetter said the country is very sustainable and the farms they are purchasing from have a large percentage of trees, and if they don’t, they are planting trees.

To learn more about Summit Group’s corn ethanol plant in Brazil, listen to my interview with Bruce Rastetter: Interview with Bruce Rastetter

I also had the opportunity to speak with Eric Peterson who is the president of Summit Group who talked more specifically about the value-added opportunities the corn ethanol plant will provide the community of Mato Grosso. Peterson explained the area has difficulty getting corn exports out of the region and ethanol into the region. With the new ethanol plant, the corn will be purchased locally and the ethanol and DDGs produced will then stay local – overcoming the export/import barriers of the region. This has made the project and partners very accepted in the community.

Eric Peterson Summit GroupSince the technology will provide a different type of DDGs than used in the U.S. a part of the project and because Brazilians are very used to using soy meal, they will be able to complement the soy meal with a high protein product. In addition, with the high fiber feed product they are going to run feed trials with a University of Nebraska nutritionist to learn how to best utilize the co-product.

Peterson believes there is a great opportunity to create synergistic relationships between U.S. farmers and Brazilian farmers. “When we go there we are impressed with some of their technology and how they adapt to large scale agriculture and they are quickly adopting precision technologies that we have here in the U.S. and there is no better place for people to assimilate technology than in Brazil and so I think we can learn a lot from each other.”

The plant is to break ground the next six months and to be operational 16 months from groundbreaking which will occur before the rainy season in Feb/March and will produce 50 million gallons of ethanol per year.

To learn more about the agribusiness aspect of the Summit Group’s Brazilian ethanol plant by listening to my interview with Eric Peterson: Interview with Eric Peterson

View the Farm Progress 2014 Flicker photo album.

New Holland Loans Tractors to BioCentury Farm

fps-cnh-jj-54-editedThis morning during the Farm Progress Show, New Holland hosted a tour of the Iowa State BioCentury Research Farm. New Holland got involved with the project when they saw a need for the use of some of their equipment and loaned them two tractors, which provided new options for their biomass research projects.

The BioCentury Research Farm combines biomass feedstock production, harvesting, storing, transporting and biorefinery processing into a complete system to develop the next generation of biofuels and biobased products. A New Holland large square baler also was provided for a corn stover research project conducted by Matt Darr, an associate professor in agricultural and biosystems engineering.

“Providing the use of this equipment to the Iowa State BioCentury Research Farm helps us strengthen the relationship between New Holland and Iowa State,” says Ron Shaffer, New Holland’s North American Director of Growth Initiatives, Institutional & Specialty Sales. “The participation furthers New Holland’s commitment to the biomass industry and our position as the Clean Energy Leader.”

fps-cnh-jj-24-editedThe New Holland Agriculture loan arose from a tour Andy Suby, manager of the research farm, gave to company officials last year.
“We appreciate the equipment and research funding provided by New Holland Agriculture,” Johnson said. “The BioCentury Research Farm was intended to be a partnership with private companies.”

New Holland Agriculture provides the use of a model T8.330 and a T5.115 tractor with a loader to be used in research and education projects conducted at the facility. The tractors will be replaced with similar models when they reach 200 hours of operation.

The company provided the baler and funding to evaluate its use in baling corn stover for supplying to cellulosic ethanol plants. This “Leading the Bioeconomy Initiative” project was supported by an appropriation from the Iowa legislature. Suby said the possibility for funding more projects with gifts or loans of other equipment has been discussed.

2014 Farm Progress photo album.

PERC Updates Brand, Logo

Propane logoThe Propane Education & Research Council (PERC) has updated its brand identity for propane: PROPANE Clean American Energy. In addition, they have revealed a new logo. According to PERC President and CEO Roy Willis, the logo highlights propane as an American-made alternative fuel at a time when U.S. propane production from natural gas liquids is at record levels. He also said the change puts a spotlight on recent investments by the propane industry in new technologies.

“We hope PROPANE Clean American Energy will increase consideration of propane as a clean, affordable, and American-made alternative to conventional fuels among fleets, commercial landscapers, contractors, producers, and homeowners,” said Willis. “Increasing domestic demand for propane in the U.S. will ultimately lead to cleaner air and increased use of our nation’s own energy resources, rather than relying on foreign oil.”

The new logo and tagline will be used in all PERC-produced materials and will be made available free of charge to propane providers and OEM partners. The new logo will also replace the previous mark used by thousands of propane retailers nationwide on signs, delivery vehicles, equipment, websites, and literature. In addition, the new logo will be featured in the organization’s new multimedia safety campaign to encourage agribusiness operators and residential propane heating customers to fill up in advance of the winter season.

Willis added, “America makes more than enough propane to meet U.S. demand. As PERC rolls out this important safety campaign and new branding identity, the propane industry is prepared to meet the needs of a changing energy economy.”

Propane Expands Use on the Farm

propane-logo1Farmers across the country are turning more and more to propane for their operations. A new study sponsored by the Propane Education & Research Council (PERC) shows that farmers looking to cut fuel costs, increase efficiencies, and meet strict emissions standards are turning to the clean-burning fuel.


Propane is currently used by more than 40 percent of farms in the U.S. According to a survey conducted by PERC and Artemis Strategy Group, the most common uses for propane among farmers are building heating (47 percent) and grain drying (35 percent).

The survey also showed that the role of propane on farms is changing, as more farmers are choosing propane to fuel vehicles and irrigation systems over other alternative fuels such as natural gas. According to the survey, 14 percent are using propane to fuel a vehicle on the farm (compared with natural gas at one percent) and five percent are using propane for irrigation (compared with natural gas at two percent).

“The results show that farmers trust propane as a reliable, convenient, American-made fuel,” Cinch Munson, PERC director of agriculture business development, said. “Every year, new, fuel-efficient propane-powered irrigation engines, grain dryers, work trucks, and forklifts are hitting the market. As more options become available, more farmers will turn to propane for greater efficiency and fuel savings.”

The survey also shows that farmers like using propane, as favorability ratings hit about 84 percent for propane, compared with 61 percent for natural gas and 33 percent for heating oil. PERC also touted its partnerships with equipment manufacturers with research and development investments to commercialize new propane-powered products or advance the energy efficiency of existing applications.

Biodiesel Helps Fuel Monsanto’s Profits

Monsanto_logoThe world’s biggest agriculture company says it will double its profits by the year 2019, and it’s crediting biodiesel, at least indirectly and in part, for that growth. This article in the Globe and Mail says Monsanto is cashing in on the growth in soybeans, which is being helped by biodiesel growth.

Sales in Monsanto’s soybean business rose by 24 per cent to $816-million in the third quarter, and corn revenue fell by 16 per cent. “I think corn had a good year, not a great year. [Soy]beans picked up a lot of the slack,” said [Monsanto chief executive officer Hugh] Grant, who is forecasting “the decade of the soybean.”

U.S. prices for soybean meal in the United States have risen by 48 per cent since the beginning of 2012, driven by rising production of biodiesel and growing demand from livestock producers. Soybean meal has become a popular and inexpensive source of protein for farm animals – especially pigs. Chinese hog producers, scrambling to meet rising demand for pork, have been among the biggest buyers of the U.S.-grown soy.

Farmers have responded to the new demand. Canadian growers expected to seed a record 5.3 million acres of soybeans this year, up more than 16 per cent over 2013, according Statistics Canada. In the United States, growers planned to seed a record 81.5 million acres this year, a 6-per-cent increase over last year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Monsanto also announced a share buyback worth $10 billion and raised its short-term profit outlook for 2014, which helped boost its shares by 5 per cent this week.

Biofuels Veteran Joins Advisory Firm

campbellBiofuels veteran and former Deputy Undersecretary of Agriculture John Campbell has joined Ocean Park Advisors (OPA), a corporate finance advisory firm for biofuels and other agribusiness companies. Campbell will serve as managing director based in Omaha, Nebraska and will serve to broaden the company’s relationships, develop new business and help execute transactions.

“I am thrilled to have the opportunity to work with the principals at Ocean Park,” said Campbell. “This is a unique firm that brings senior-level attention to transactions in renewable energy, food processing and other agriculture sectors.”

Campbell spent 21 years with Ag Processing Inc (AGP), a $5 billion cooperative, where he was an executive vice president responsible for leading the industrial products division. He launched it with biofuels and later expanded it to include green chemistry applications of soy oil products to plant protection, industrial cleaning, personal care and environmental remediation sectors. He is credited as being one of the driving forces behind the creation of the U.S. biodiesel industry. Under Campbell’s leadership, AGP constructed the first commercial scale biodiesel plant in North America followed by numerous other expansions, projects and acquisitions. He was also engaged in the ethanol industry starting in the 1990s, and served as president of the Nebraska Association of Ethanol Producers.

Campbell served as Deputy Undersecretary of Agriculture in 1988, engaged in legislative and regulatory activities related to commodity programs, conservation efforts and trade.

Green Plains Purchases Supreme Cattle Feeders

Green Plains (GPRE) has acquired the assets of Supreme Cattle feeders from Agri Beef Co. The deal includes the feed yard doing business as Supreme Cattle Feeders and the Cimarron Grain Storage facility located near Kismet, Kansas.

“Supreme Cattle Feeders is one of the premier cattle feed yards in the U.S. and this operation is an ideal adjacent business for Green Plains,” said Todd Becker, president and CEO. “The green_plainscustom cattle-feeding business gives us the ability to further process our distillers grains and corn oil, and extend our corn origination network. We also believe that this transaction will be accretive to 2014 earnings.”

Becker said Supreme Cattle Feeders will remain a custom cattle-feeding business -a great asset to their portfolio of value-added processing facilities. He notes that GPRE’s focus is to ensure that current customers continue to be served at the highest level. In addition, Becker said they plan on retaining all of the current employees at the facilities.

Robert Rebholtz, Jr., President/CEO of Agri Beef Co. said, “The key to our decision to sell Supreme Cattle Feeders was Green Plains’ financial strength, commitment to operational excellence and risk management capabilities. We are thrilled by the great opportunities this combination will provide Supreme’s long-time customers and employees. We look forward to continuing our own cattle-feeding relationship as a Green Plains customer for years to come.”

GPRE said Supreme Cattle Feeders will remain a custom cattle-feeding business and will continue to operate under its current name. Supreme Cattle Feeders financial results will be reported as a part of Green Plains’ agribusiness segment. The operation consists of approximately 2,600 acres of land with 800 acres allocated to the feedlot operation that has the capacity to support 70,000 head of cattle. Supreme’s current corn storage capacity, including the Cimarron Grain facilities, is approximately 3.8 million bushels. Supreme Cattle Feeders will continue to be directed by its current management team, with transition support from Agri Beef Co. Agri Beef Co will continue its relationship as a cattle-feeding customer of Supreme. Agri Beef Co. has owned and operated Supreme Cattle Feeders for the past 19 years.

USDA Announces BCAP Funding

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack has announced that the USDA will begin accepting applications June 16 through July 14, 2014 from energy facilities interested in receiving forest or agricultural residues to generate clean energy. The support comes through the Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP), which was authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill. Agriculture residues, such as corn cobs and stalks, also may qualify as energy-producing feedstock.

BCAP provides financial assistance to farmers and ranchers who establish and maintain new crops of energy biomass, or who harvest and deliver forest or agricultural residues to a qualifying energy facility. Of the forest residuetotal $25 million per year authorized for BCAP, the 2014 Farm Bill provides up to 50 percent ($12.5 million) each year for matching payments for the harvest and transportation of biomass residues. BCAP matching payments will resume this summer, while crop incentives will begin in 2015. Some matching payments will support the removal of dead or diseased trees from National Forests and Bureau of Land Management public lands. This will be turned into renewable energy while reducing the risk of forest fire.

“Removing dead or diseased trees from forests to use for biomass production creates clean energy while reducing the threat of forest fires and the spread of harmful insects and disease,” said Vilsack. “Increasing our country’s production of biomass energy also helps grow our economy. Food is made in rural America, but fuel is made in rural America, too. This program is yet another USDA investment in expanding markets for agricultural products made in rural places across the country.”

With the 2014 Farm Bill requiring several regulatory updates to BCAP, the resumption of payments for starting and maintaining new sources of biomass (Project Areas) has been deferred until a later date when the regulatory updates occur.

Clean Power Plan Should Give Utility Industry a Boost

Earlier this week the EPA announced a legacy proposal that would reduce carbon pollution from power plants by 30 percent below 2005 numbers. While much of the response from organizations was positive, may associations believe the proposed Clean Power Plan regulation will harm rural areas, not help.

According to the American Farm Bureau Federation, the reduction in carbon will lead to higher energy prices; but not only would farmers face higher prices for electricity, but any energy-related input such as fertilizer. They also claim rural electric cooperatives that rely on old coal plants for cheap electricity would be hit especially hit hard.

Coal-Fired-Power-Plant“U.S. agriculture will pay more for energy and fertilizer under this plan, but the harm won’t stop there,” American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman said. “Effects will especially hit home in rural America.”

Yet according to Lux Research, the Clean Power Plan have noted that while the proposed regulation has spurred furious debate, what is missing from the conversation it the role of innovation. The firm said these rules can help spur innovation that will make it easier for the world to reduce its emissions.

The new EPA rules are unlikely to have a dramatic impact on global emissions on their own, said Lux Research, given that almost all future growth in carbon emissions will come from developing and underdeveloped countries – most notably China, which became the largest carbon emitter in 2007. Hence, much of the debate about the rules has centered on how likely they are to help induce China and other nations to agree to binding targets of their own.

“The political discussion about climate change misses a critical point; whatever their role in climate negotiations, these new rules will accelerate technology development and deployment, making it more practical and affordable for nations everywhere to reduce emissions,” said Aditya Ranade, Senior Analyst at Lux Research. “Their influence on innovation is where they will need to have the biggest impact for the world to achieve its CO2 reduction goals.”

Lux Research analysts predict that four major technology sectors will get a boost: Continue reading

AgWired Gets a Facelift

When you visit the ZimmComm New Media websites dedicated to agriculture, you will see a new integrated AgWired brand Animal.AgWired.comand new website names to better serve the animal agriculture segment of the industry.

WorldDairyDiary.com will now be known as Animal.Agwired.com, which will offer news and information about all segments of livestock and poultry. “We regularly cover events such as the International Production and Processing Expo, World Pork Expo, and national beef cattle meetings, in addition to World Dairy Expo,” said ZimmComm president Chuck Zimmerman. “We wanted to consolidate all of our animal agriculture coverage into one site to make it easier for our readers to access.”

Precision.AgWired.comPrecisionPays.com is now Precision.Agwired.com and will continue to include the latest news and information about precision agriculture, conservation, biotechnology and more. “Both websites (PrecisionPays and WorldDairyDiary) will remain accessible under the old URLs,” explained Zimmerman. “But they will now also be prominently featured on the AgWired.com home page.”

In addition, the AgWired App for the iOS and Android store has also been innovated and users can now create the AgWired App on their mobile device themselves. To do this, just visit AgWired.com on your mobile device of choice and a popup will ask if you want to create a desktop icon. AgWired will then open with a click of the app in a very user-friendly format. Full instructions are included in an instructional video on YouTube.

The New AgWired.comAgWired.com is ZimmComm’s flagship agribusiness news and information site, started in August of 2004. WorldDairyDiary began the following year and Precision Pays was started in February 2007. “The new design will provide consistency in the look of ZimmComm’s major agricultural websites,” Zimmerman added. DomesticFuel.com, started in September 2005, will also sport a new look consistent with the other sites, but will remain under its current name. So keep an eye out for a DF Facelift as well.

Other ZimmComm online services of interest include AgNewsWire.com dedicated to news release distribution and audio combined from all websites and available to all agricultural media.