|A SARE-funded study tested the viability of biodiesel produced from canola oil. Photo by Peter Sexton.|
Farmers growing grains and oilseeds may find new markets if interest in bio-based fuels continues to grow. Ethanol and biodiesel processing plants are increasingly common in the Midwest, while smaller-scale projects are being tested in the Northeast and other areas.
A SARE-supported project in Maine and Vermont found that farmers could grow and crush canola for $293 per ton, yielding 1,180 pounds of meal and 92 gallons of oil. Including the income from sale of the meal, the break-even price of the biodiesel processed from the canola oil came out at $3.09/gallon -- a competitive price for a renewable fuel.
“Farmers are interested in producing a crop whose value is tied to the price of fuel,” says project leader Peter Sexton. “There’s also a great deal of personal satisfaction to be gained from producing your own fuel.”
While it’s hard to say exactly how the renewable fuels market will develop in coming years, with processing technologies improving and demand on the rise, fuel-crop production offers an array of opportunities for creating value-added products.
Installing photovoltaic panels or wind turbines, can reduce energy expenses over the long term and provide additional interest for farm visitors. See www.sare.org/coreinfo/energy.htm for more information about farm-based renewable energy.