Scott Weishaar surveys the long row of biomass harvest equipment ready for demonstration and cracks a smile.
"The equipment companies have stepped up to the plate,” says Weishaar, vice president of commercial development for Poet, the nation's first cellulosic ethanol producer. Poet recently hosted a biomass harvest field day at the site of its future cellulosic facility, which will use corn cobs as feedstock.
"They have made great strides in cob harvesting equipment since our field day last year,” Weishaar says.
Poet and the farmers contracting to provide cobs for cellulosic ethanol production are banking on this harvest equipment going commercial starting in 2010. Poet is currently working with 14 local farmers to contract for cob collection this year and hopes to at least double the number of farmers it works with next year.
"This process is ready,” says Jeff Broin, Poet CEO, regarding cellulosic ethanol production at its Emmetsburg, Iowa, facility. "We're making cellulosic ethanol today, and we're making it in a manner that is going to be profitable.”
Baled cobs buzz. The newest entry into biomass harvest technology is equipment that harvests and compresses cobs, husks and leaves into square bales. Several equipment manufacturers, including AGCO and Case IH, are developing equipment to package biomass into 3'x4' square bales up to 8' long and 1,500 lb.
AGCO is developing a one-pass system that marries its Challenger combine with a Hesston Series large baler to bundle cobs into square bales. The system requires just one pass through the field for grain and crop residue harvest. In addition, it provides a biomass product that has minimal dirt compared with other collection and storage options, says Dean Morrell, AGCO product marketing manager.
"Large square bales are efficient to stack, store and transport,” Morrell explains. "We believe this system will be easily adapted to other sources of biomass such as cereal grain. It also provides a clean, superior corn-stock-based after-feed or bedding for beef and dairy operations.”
Another benefit of the bale is that it densifies materials and makes the logistics of handling biomass a little easier, says Sam Acker, Case IH director of harvesting marketing. The company is developing and conducting field trials on a harvesting system that teams a baler behind select combines.
"The baler option for biomass harvesting would require the least amount of labor during harvest because the machine is just dropping bales onto the ground that can be picked up later,” Acker adds.
- December 2009