by BETTER FARMING STAFF
The Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association didn’t want to reinvent the wheel. That’s why it is organizing a trade mission to Europe to explore biomass processing and market development.
“We now understand how to grow these crops in Ontario . . . but the market development aspect is still in its infancy here,” says Nick Betts, the association’s applied research coordinator.
Ontario growers face a range of challenges from how to process the material and determine what end product is needed to how to approach industry, Betts says. In turn, industry doesn’t necessarily know how to acquire biomass, process it or employ it in the manufacturing stage.
The mission will coincide with the AEBIOM’s — European Biomass Association — annual conference in Brussels in June. The trip will include a tour of the Port of Ghent facilities as well as stops in the Netherlands, Germany, Denmark, possibly Sweden and Ireland.
There will be room for up to 30 people to participate, says Betts. Invitations are being issued. Participants will likely be producers and manufacturers as well as biomass end users and aggregators.
The mission is one of several new projects underway to help develop biomass production and markets in Ontario. Other projects include: pyrolysis development to extract bio-oils and explore market opportunities; the establishment of a national biomass communications strategy as well as coordinating a national biomass forum or conference in August in Ottawa; a seed and rhizome certification program for biomass varieties; and a database to provide a standardized way to measure the sustainability of farming biomass.
Betts says the funding comes from a $1.2 million surplus in a multi-faceted project to help foster an agricultural biomass sector in the province. The Ontario Federation of Agriculture spearheaded the project and subcontracted the OSCIA to administer some of the related activities. Funding comes from the Canadian Agricultural Adaptation Program.
Much of the funding was intended to support Ontario farmers in growing biomass crops to facilitate the development of a provincial biomass industry. “To solicit growers we had them put in bids on what they thought it would cost to grow the biomass, where they would sell it and basically a comprehensive package on why we should choose them,” Betts says. Growers were selected and given assistance to help cover the costs of growing the new crops. “It turned out that it cost significantly less (to grow the crop) than the farmers budgeted for,” he says. BF