3 questions with Glenn Farris, marketing manager of AGCO Corp.
In your abstract you talk about significant investment in implements having to be made for even one 100 MMgy year facility. Are equipment manufacturers, including AGCO, ready for this kind of demand?
The ag equipment necessary for a 100 MMgy a year facility can easily require an investment of $100 million. This is certainly a significant investment. The industry will require significant investment in manufacturing and R&D as well. For example, large square balers are key to the agricultural, or non-wood, biomass supply chain. If just 600 million gallons per year of production is built in the next five years, the industry will be required to approximately double the current production of large square balers. However, it normally takes a minimum of three years to permit and then build a facility. So we have the advantage of a three year head start from when the project developer starts permitting and contracting for feedstock supplies, until our equipment will be needed for the supply chain. If we are involved in this process with the developer from the beginning then, yes, we can as a company meet the demands that are coming.
You've been involved in collaborative studies with Iowa State University over the course of the last three years. What has been the primary aim of those research efforts?
The primary aim of our work with Iowa State University was and is to reduce the cost of the collection and delivery of corn stover to a biofuels facility, while also meeting certain specifications for the feedstock. We learned very quickly that in order to develop economic methods and models that will work for the developer would require us, as an equipment company, to meet several goals for which our equipment was not quite ready. We had to study each step in the supply chain and make sure we adapted our equipment to meet these requirements. This has led to better, more efficient equipment and brand new configurations of equipment to meet the rate of take, bulk density, moisture content, storability, transportability and ash content specifications of the biofuel facility. And while we have made significant improvements in all these areas, we continue to work and perform R&D to improve these matrices.
Which do you think is more likely, farmers harvesting crop residues themselves, or custom harvesters with specialized equipment harvesting the residues in a given market area?
In most areas, I think the majority of the work will be done by custom harvesters. The custom harvester can justify the investment in the specialized equipment necessary and can attract the personnel needed due to their longer work year. The harvesting and collection of ag waste materials is a very short year in most areas. However, there will always be a certain number of farmers who wish to do things themselves. This is especially true of those with larger operations. We are also seeing another group that falls in between these two; these are the farmers that see this as a business opportunity to invest in equipment and custom harvest on a limited basis in their home base area.
Glenn Farris, marketing manager, biomass, at AGCO Corp. is a featured speaker in the "Walking the Sleeping Giant: Equipment and Approaches for Harvesting and Collecting Agricultural Biomass," panel at the 2103 International Biomass Conference & Expo.