Farm co-op recruiting members to supply planned Sarnia bio-manufacturer
October 30, 2017
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By Paul Morden
A company planning to build a plant in Sarnia to turn corn stalks and wheat straw into sugar has sweetened the deal for members of a farm co-op formed to be its partner and supplier.
Comet Biorefining, a startup company from London, has said it will build and operate a plant at the TransAlta site in Sarnia able to produce 27 million kilograms (60 million pounds) of dextrose sugar annually for use in the making of renewable fuels and biochemical.
The 75,000 tonnes of corn stalks and leaves, and wheat straw, the plant will need annually as its feedstock will be supplied by the newly-formed Cellulosic Sugar Producers Co-operative which is working to sign up farm members with a total of 55,000 acres in the region.
As well as supplying a portion of plant residue left in the fields following harvest, members are being asked to invest in the co-op which will be a partner in the Sarnia plant.
“Our partner, Comet, has made some improvements to the payback to the grower, the dividend portion,” said Brian Cofell, general manager of the co-op.
“Every week we are gaining more and more acres towards our target,” he said.
“Our confidence level is very high, right now, for the success of this.”
Cofell wouldn’t say what percentage of the co-op’s membership goal has been reached, at this point, but in August co-op president Dave Park said it had signed on approximately one-third of the members required.
The co-op has scheduled a new round of field demonstration days in November to show farmers how it will bail and truck away a portion of corn stalks and leaves, also known as stover, from member farm fields.
Only a portion of the stover will be taken by the co-op, with the balance left in the fields to return organic material to the soil.
The group held similar demonstration days this time last year.
“It’s really important that growers see the work that we’re going to do in the field,” Cofell said.
“We’re here to prove ourselves.”
Cofell said there is “a lot of momentum right now” with growers reaching out to the co-op about the opportunity.
“It just feels growers are becoming more and more excited and interested in the project.”
Comet Biorefining has said it plans to have a manufacturing site built and operating in Sarnia in 2018.
“It’s just a great time to be out talking to growers, right in the middle of harvest,” Cofell said.
“They’re talking about their crops now, and we’re looking forward to a year from now when we will be beginning some harvest work ourselves.”
The demonstration days are an opportunity for farmers to see the equipment and the process the co-op will use to gather, bail and ship corn stover.
“We’re here to do a good job for them on the farm, we’re here to respect the land,” Cofell said.
“We’re hoping for good weather that day, to show them the job we can do.”
The co-op’s field demonstration days are set for:
- Nov. 14, 1 p.m., at Shea Farms, 7037 Churchill Line, Watford;
- Nov. 16, 1 p.m., at Vanek Farms, 11276, Brookline Line, Dresden;
- Nov. 17, 1 p.m., at DFG farms, 21934 Victoria Rd., Thamesville.
Information about the co-op is available online at www.cspcoop.com.