As the federal government moves closer to implementing a carbon tax, the impact of that on farmers’ fuel costs are bound to be significant. And the effect of that most talked about lately has been on the cost of gas for drying grain.
One Manitoba company thinks it can offer producers a better, cheaper method of drying grain. Triple Green Products of Morris, Man., has introduced its BioDryAir system, which is designed to supply heat for grain drying from a variety of biomass products, such a straw, wood pellets or corn stover.
“Where the technology came from is the mining sector,” says Lyall Wiebe, CEO and co-owner of Triple Green Products. “Those units have been running for many, many years. We saw a need to bring the same technology into the grain drying sector. Although it’s new to the grain drying sector, it’s not new to us. The only thing new is the panel, in other words, how we control it and how we hook up to a grain dryer.”
The BioDryAir system can burn a variety of different biomass products and supply hot air to any existing grain drying system.
“It’s the heat source — it replaces natural gas or propane,” Wiebe explains. “We can run all different types of biomass.”
Some types of biomass might have to be run through a bale processor to get chopped down to a workable size, but there are other types of product that wouldn’t require any processing at all.
“For instance, if you take corn stover, the stalks are long coming out of the combine, so you would have to run it through a bale shredder to get it to a better size that doesn’t cause bridging,” he says.
“Then there are other types of fuels you don’t have to do that with. Some (buyers) want to use pellets, like an oat pellet or wood pellet, that you can put into a hopper bin. Or we can do it with a walking floor on a building of some type to feed various types of products. We have the fuel handling system. We provide it.”
Once a producer specs out the kind of system required for the desired biomass type and the BTU output, a Triple Green Products crew will come directly to a farmyard and install it, making it a turnkey purchase.
Retrofitting it to any existing on-farm or elevator system is as simple as routing new air ducting. And the biomass system can be fitted to work as an alternative to a gas system without removing the existing gas heat source.
“You don’t have to dismantle anything from the fossil fuel side,” Wiebe says. “We bring in a ducting system to provide the heat. If, all of a sudden, I ran out of biomass and wanted to finish on propane or natural gas, you just turn on a valve and away you go.”
Wiebe says he often hears one particular question from farmers — where do they find fuel?
“If they’re a grain grower, they have their own fuel. As soon as you mention that, they’re, ‘Oh, okay, can I use canola straw?’ Absolutely. ‘Can I use corn stover,’ is primarily from our customers in the U.S. Corn stover is somewhat of a nuisance to get rid of off fields, so, here, now it’s a fuel.
“And there are some that want to go with a pellet product, and there are various pellet suppliers across North America. That’s also available, so it’s an off-farm fuel source.”
As an example of what kind of savings his customers have seen, Wiebe points to one grower who saw a dramatic cost reduction.
“One farmer in 2019 spent over $150,000 drying his corn crop (conventionally),” he recounts. “In 2020, he spent $3,200 with our system. In fairness, in 2020, the crop came off a lot drier, but, regardless, he still had to dry his corn. In 2019, he had to take out 10 to 12 points out of his grain, this past year (2020) he took out about half of that, five to six points. But it was still a dramatic savings. In 2019, he was growing 1,700 acres of corn. In 2020, he grew a little more than that.”
While Wiebe points out small-scale, part-time farmers might not find the Triple Green system a cost-effective alternative, most full-time, average- to large-scale producers would likely see significant cost savings.
“Our smallest system would be a 7.5 to 10 million BTU system, and then up from there,” he says. “(Cost) does vary a great deal, all depending on what options you want to go with. You’re talking $140,000 to $160,000 to start. We don’t make a system currently for a very small batch dryer, because it just doesn’t pencil out at this stage. For anyone who is almost a hobby farmer, this system wouldn’t pencil out for them.”
And even if a carbon tax wasn’t implemented, Wiebe says installing the Triple Green System still makes sense.
“Regardless of what the government does with carbon tax, this is very affordable. And the ROI is very rapid. And especially the more bushels you dry, the quicker the payoff,” he says.
The company is currently selling directly to customers (triplegreenproducts.com). However, it is in the process of creating a dealer network.
“It (biomass grain drying) is something that’s long overdue,” says Wiebe. “Especially with the federal government pushing everyone to get off fossil fuels. This has a significant impact going forward with farming.”