BFN & Biotech Annecto Event Popup

by Yu Wang, Ph.D. Student, Biomass and Bioenergy Research Group, BioFuelNet project 10

Where farmers, equipment manufacturers, technology producers and end users meet

One of the pillars of the sustainable growth of the bio-economy is the development of cost-efficient biomass logistics systems. Such logistics systems require flexible equipment that have the capability to work efficiently under different weather and field conditions to harvest and collect biomass in a short harvest window. With the growth of the bio-economy, most of the agricultural equipment manufacturers have been enhancing their equipment to harvest, collect and transport large quantities of biomass in a cost-efficient manner.

As a BioFuelNet Highly Qualified Personnel (HQP) focusing on supply-chain logistics, I am very interested in learning about recent developments in this area. Canada’s outdoor farm show held in Woodstock, Ontario provided me this opportunity. The farm show is well-attended agricultural event attracting about 40,000 attendees each year. In addition to equipment manufacturers, other stakeholders such as farmers and biomass users and agricultural technology companies attend the show. I have the opportunity of meeting them in person to discuss ongoing and future trends and innovations.

Equipment exhibitions 

New Holland tractor

New Holland tractor


John Deere Square Baler

Like many graduate students, I spent a lot of time reading statistics in academic literature about how agricultural equipment operate. However, I never had the chance to see most of this equipment. I was completely surprised by their size and the amount of engineering work involved! Among the over 750 exhibitors, I focused on equipment exhibitions by New Holland, Kuhn, John Deere and AGCO since these are the machines I will studying in my Ph.D. research.

As a graduate student with the Biomass and Bioenergy Research Group and working on biomass supply chain modeling and optimization, being able to step away from computers and to talk to farmers and manufacturers is very beneficial. Our conversations mostly began with the capacity, performance and cost of their balers, but as we got more engaged into the conversation, I learned about what might break and what might go wrong during harvesting. The conversation also expanded my understanding of the current equipment availability in Ontario, the realistic estimation of the stover baling rate in the region and how much baling is necessary to justify the purchase of a square baler and a tractor. Their experiences did not only provide validation of the statistics in the academic literature, but also brought forth additional considerations to improve my understanding and the modeling of the biomass supply chain system.

Meeting farmers and biomass producers

Ontario Biomass Producers Co-operative Inc. (OBPC) is an established by a group of Ontario farmers interested in exploring North America’s biomass market. Their primary biomass products are miscanthus and switchgrass. In addition to bioenergy and biofuel markets, OBPC members have explored  the use of switchgrass for animal bedding and as a component of mushroom substrate. While they are proud of their success, they also shared with us several of their concerns of Ontario’s biomass market. For example, although there is enough biomass in Ontario, local mushroom producers bring biomass all the way from Manitoba in the case of shortage of wheat straw, due to the cheap transportation cost via railway. This is a very interesting example of how a national-level logistics system affects the local biomass market. Further analysis of this may reveal more insights of Canada’s current and future biomass market potential.

Customized rhizome planter

Customized rhizome planter

Switchgrass pellets

Switchgrass pellets

The corn stover harvest demo was one of the highlight of the show. It was organized by the Cornstalk Partners including OFA, La Coop and the Agromart Group. The demo began with windrowing operation by a Hiniker windrower to cut stover and leaving them into a windrow on the field. Thereafter, round and square balers from six different companies were used to make round and square bales. It was very exciting to see harvest equipment in action for the first time. It was also very educational – I learnt how fast these balers can bale and observed what might slow them down and go wrong.

Along the way

Aside from attending Canada’s Outdoor Farm Show, I also visited engineers and researchers at Western Sarnia-Lambton Research Park to discuss potential collaboration on the logistics of producing industrial sugar from corn stover. They provided us with valuable feedback and presented us with real engineering issues.

On our last day, we visited Dr. Naresh V. Thevathasan at University of Guelph. He gave us a tour of biomass crops fields including willow, hybrid poplar, switchgrass and miscanthus, including BioFuelNet’s Pan-Canadian Feedstock trials. His expertise in agriculture practices and soil health is amazing!

BioFuelNet Pan-Canadian Feedstock Trials at the University of Guelph

BioFuelNet Pan-Canadian Feedstock Trials at the University of Guelph

In the end

Our trip to attend Canada’s 2015 Outdoor Farm Show was very fruitful. We had a chance to see the machinery in action and gathering information from professionals from many disciplines – farmers, dealers, manufacturers, engineers, academia and government staff. I would like to thank BioFuelNet for providing me with such a great opportunity by financially supporting my trip.   

Most Popular Posts

All data and information provided on this blog is for informational purposes only. BioFuelNet Canada makes no representations as to accuracy, completeness, currentness, suitability, or validity of any information on this blog and will not be liable for any errors, omissions, or delays in this information or any losses, injuries, or damages arising from its display or use. All information is provided on an as-is basis.