Ian Paddock <email@example.com>Jan 21 (3 days ago) to me
Hi Will - I did see the video - it is impressive. I also find all of the events, workshops and activity going on impressive too – I wish I lived closer. I do now have a new work from home job which basically means work from anywhere. With that, I'm hoping to make it down to a few of the events next spring and summer and also would like to come see the 2 ton/hour set up that Larry Hartpence moved to his facility.
Here we bought & installed a pellet stove this fall and burned three boxes of grass pellets I had made. Some general observations of consumption are:
a) As is already known - there is significantly more ash with grass vs wood. I simply mitigated that by habitually emptying the ash pot every morning when I got up.
b) A couple of times it had difficulty starting on 100% grass pellets. A 50/50 grass & wood mix seemed to work better. The moisture of may hay was around 12% when I densified it, so that might have
been a factor.
My Dad and I tried the briquette machine once - it didn't go that well. Once thing I didn't do was hammer the hay first, as I wanted to see if chopped hay right off the chopper wagon would go through - it did for a minute then the machine plugged. As a result I did find an efficient means to get the mass out using a core drill bit. Attached is my report on this first run and next steps - pictures of the results are included.
Regarding the group in Ontario - if I can ever help with anything, I see that the map on their websites homepage lists a location is Kingston. Kingston is about 1/2 hour from our farm.
At this year's New York State fair, I talked to a representative from NYSERDA (New York State Energy Research and Development Authority) about my individual scale efforts to produce and consume densified hay. He then suggested I assemble a long term plan and apply for a clean energy related grant they offer. With that, I'm now thinking bigger and working on what I might ask for in a grant request. For this, I was thinking of reaching out to the group here for suggestions and assistance with this, since I have never applied for a grant before. Hopefully by Summer I'll have a larger scale, long term plan assembled and at that point be ready to submit.
I'm also experimenting with some Proof of Concept / table top ideas of breaking down grass further than the hammer mill can do (in case that turns out to be the secret to the briquette machine, or even shorter hay improves pellet machine performance). At this point, I have a meat grinder with a blade behind the output die that works well (pictures attached). Eventually after POC work is done I'll go to our local machine shop and see about building a scaled up, PTO powered machine that is similar.
Cell: 315-751-GRASS (4727)
Will: Ian has a briquetter. I have been curious about it. He added this as a file to his email.
10/04/2016 – first briquetting run with ZBJ III BM machine
1) Chopped 4 bales of hay into trailer (did not hammer mill afterwards)
2) Mixed two washtubs full of hay, sand, and cooking oil (4:1:1/4) to make a mud mix for die
conditioning, rust cleaning, and easy throughput.
3) Started generator and briquette machine (BM). Grounded BM to a ground rod.
4) Instructions said to heat the die to 280 Celsius. This took at least ½ hour to reach 250 Celsius.
5) Threw in a couple of handfuls of mud mix – this made it to the end of the tunnel and was loose.
6) Add more mud mix. Brick started forming inside the tunnel, but then stopped moving out. Mix would
cycle and spit back inside the hopper too. Stopping/reversing/restarting helps mitigate this.
• At one point, the machine stopped the auger to the point where the belts squealed. Several rounds
of Stopping/reversing/restarting resolved this. During this time, the BM motor would not run at all -
this must be due to some sort of override or overheat protection with the motor. After 3 – 5
minutes, the motor ran again
• A couple of times, the material in the tube ‘popped’ and blew material out the end.
• The grass blockage was like a donut with its hole in the middle.
7 ) Added corn meal to try something else – this cornmeal pushed through the donut hole and out.
The popping earlier might have been the middle of the donut blockage blowing out. The corn meal
formed most of the logs shown further below. Some of these were grass logs too that would have
pushed through the blockage:
• When putting corn meal through, or when grass/sand/oil based logs were coming out of the tunnel,
the sound of the machine changed, just like the pellet machine does when is begins to work to put
out good pellets.
a) I suspect that the chopped grass (and not hammered) was too long, so the Youtube video found at the url below shows them processing a dust like material:
b) Due to spending too much time inside the tunnel, did the lignin glue itself to the inside of the tunnel, thus causing the
c) Shorter material (corn meal) when thru while longer (chopped hay) didn’t go thru well
Options to try for removing a blockage:
1) Hammer drill (don’t like the idea of the pounding inside the tunnel)
2) Drill and chip (like last time – takes forever – need quicker solution)
3) Use hole saw to pull chunks of blockage out, like pulling a cork out of a wine bottle:
Extra long hole saws:
PVC to use as protective sleeve for inside of tunnel:
11/12/2016 – Blockage removal
• Around 10/24/16, I used a Lenox 2.5 inch, hole saw to successfully drill out ‘plugs’. Problem is that this
hole saws is only 2 – 2.5 inches deep.
• On 11/12/16, using a core hole saw for drilling cement & concrete, I was able to drill all the way in the
tunnel since this core hole saw is 12” deep. It cut thru on the outside the blockage and I then used a
long bar to break out chunks of the grass plug.
• I didn’t use the 3” split stove pipe I bought as a protector from tunnel scrub from the core bit. Next
time I should use this as a protective sleeve.
• The core hole saw was purchased from EDiamondTools at: https://www.ediamondtools.com/products/dry-diamond-core-drill-bit?utm_source=google&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=google_shopping&gclid=CLbhh_-f3c8CFdJahgodb5MCrg
By Katie Fletcher | December 28, 2016
Ontario Biomass Producers Cooperative Inc., a group of Ontario farmers producing and marketing biomass, recently released biomass agronomy guides and videos for switchgrass and miscanthus production. These agronomy guides were prepared to be used as a comprehensive resource for existing and future biomass producers.
According to OBPC, the agronomy guides provide practical answers and solutions to newcomers of Ag biomass production as well as very advanced growers. Both guides for switchgrass and miscanthus are organized similarly by providing an overview of the biomass crop and then different chapters on various stages of the production process: site and material selection, site preparation, establishment, post-establishment management, harvest management, storage and transport, and then ending with some conclusions.
The miscanthus agronomy guide concluded miscanthus is a low-input, high-yielding perennial grass capable of good yields in southwestern Ontario, but there are risks of overwintering death in the first year of establishment in some growing regions when rhizomes of poor quality are used. The costs of establishment are high, so field preparation and establishment practices warrant proper attention and care. Also, miscanthus has a wide harvest window and flexible harvest and storage options, and results in a biomass feedstock that can be used in an array of end-use applications. An exciting prospect for Ontario producers is the ongoing development of a no-till planting system that accommodates a soybean nurse crop.
The switchgrass agronomy guide came to similar conclusions. Like miscanthus, switchgrass is a low-input, high-yielding perennial grass, capable of even more impressive yields in southwestern Ontario. Switchgrass similarly has high establishment costs, a wide harvest window—restricted only by the active growing period of the crop—and flexible harvest and storage options, resulting in a biomass feedstock that can also be used in an array of end-use applications.
Toward the end of the switchgrass agronomy 2016 guide, some of these end-use applications were identified, and a separate guidebook for livestock uses of biomass grasses is being produced as a companion to the guide which discusses the livestock markets for switchgrass in more detail. The guide stated that switchgrass is now being used in nearly all markets where wheat straw is used. The existing markets and end uses identified for switchgrass in OBPC’s guidebook include livestock bedding, livestock feed, mushroom compost, switchgrass mulch, anaerobic digestion (AD) for biogas and combustion.
Switchgrass is being used as an energy crop feedstock for AD in Ontario, but, according to the guide, requires a higher energy price—such as a feed-in tariff or renewable natural gas price—to cover the cost of production of the switchgrass and equipment payback. The guide stated, “Ontario analysis shows a roughly equivalent biogas efficiency (cost of crop inputs relative to biogas output) for switchgrass grown on lower grade agricultural lands in Ontario compared to high-yield corn silage grown on high quality lands.”
Another point the guide made is that dry bales and ensiled green bales have been digested successfully, and that leafy, highly digestible selections of switchgrass (such as Shawnee) may prove most suitable in Ontario to improve biogas yield and input. A cascading value for switchgrass may also be achieved by first using it as livestock bedding and subsequently as a manure substrate to feed an anaerobic digester.
As for combustion, switchgrass has been found to be suitable for use in combustion appliances and boilers with the ability to burn higher ash fuels. Switchgrass has been burned as pellets, cubes, briquettes and as a bulk biomass. According to the guide, as a higher value densified fuel, it works best as a combination fuel with wood residues or crop milling residues such as wheat bran.
The guides were put together through OBPC’s partnership with the University of Guelph; the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs; and Resource Efficient Agricultural Production-Canada, with the help of OPBC’s sponsors Livestock Research Innovation Corporation Inc. and Ontario Agri-Food Technologies.
The agronomy guides and growing 101 for switchgrass and miscanthus videos can be accessed on OBPC’s website here.
A short time ago, I asked Len Reggie how he would get warm season grass from the field to the poultry house. The material needs to arrive in a “ready to use” condition. Len is a very talented engineer. He responded very quickly to my request. Below is that response.
Here is what I have come up with so far concerning harvesting grass for poultry litter.
A one pass harvest system is the ultimate goal.
A single chop will minimize dust, an absolute necessity for animal litter.
A bale density of 30#/cu.ft will minimize shipping costs.
Minimal handling will reduce costs.
It may be advantageous to contact a broker to expedite sales.
First, the harvesting method. There are two options, a flail chopper and a forage harvester.
See http://agriculture.newholland.com/au/en/Products/Hay-and-Forage-Equipment/Documents/260613Pull%20Type%20Forage%20Harvesters.pdf for example. other companies make them as well.
A flail chopper will harvest and chop in one pass and avoid picking up dirt and rocks. extra knives can be added for a finer chop. The disadvantage is that the chop size will vary with varying feed rates. Adjusting tractor speed may overcome this problem sufficiently. A field test is necessary on dry material. Used equipment can be purchased at very reasonable cost. New machines run about 15K.
Secondly, a forage harvester. This is the ideal machine when chop size is critical. You add or remove knives to adjust chop size. The machine has powered feed rolls similar to a wood chipper. The disadvantage is that they are designed to pick up a windrow, which means an additional pass to cut the grass and the introduction of dust, rocks and material loss. A corn head is available but I don't know if a grass head is made by any manufacturer. It may be possible to engineer a cutter bar in front of the pickup head. I am sure some farmers have experience with this equipment so feedback is important.
Obviously a self unloading wagon is necessary. Three may be required for a continuous harvest. These are readily available used for reasonable cost.
Next is bagging. In my opinion the best method is a compression baler. See http://rethceif.com/products/rethpack-hc-2010 for example. These are available in semi manual to fully automatic and can be purchased used since they are very common.
In order to maximize production, the baler should be sized to match harvest rates. the baler can be fed directly from the self unloading wagon. The bales should be sized to fit a standard 40 x 48" pallet. At a density of 30 # /cu. ft. a one ton pallet will be 60" high. Pallets can be stored outdoors. A 53 ft flatbed will carry 24 tons. Obviously the bagging system needs to be portable so it may have to be engineered.
There is another possible market for bagged grass. Hydroseeding.
Hydroseeding Wood Mulch, Paper & Cellulose Mulch
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This is worth looking into.
New Warm-season Grass Producer Group Supports Grower Needs in a Developing Industry
Warm-season grass crops are a compelling opportunity for producers interested in expanding acreage to marginal fields for fuller land utilization, exploring new agricultural products and markets, enhancing ecosystem services, and reaching many other objectives. However, adoption of these crops has not yet become widespread, and producers interested in or actively involved in managing these crops may benefit from working cooperatively in building the industry. Penn State Extension has recently been working with warm-season grass growers in the region to establish a producer group designed to help meet the needs of those working directly with these new crops.
Known as The Association of Warm Season Grass Producers (AWSGP), this group:
Promotes the use and planting of warm-season grasses.
Works to maximize the profitability of these crops for local farmers.
Assists in educating growers on the implementation of best practices for managing and harvesting these
Supports and encourages entrepreneurial activity that further develops the use of warm-season grasses
in all areas of agriculture.
Membership is voluntary and open to any individual, business, or organization representing those interested in using or supporting the activities of AWSGP and are willing to accept the responsibilities of membership.
If you might be interested in joining or just want a bit more information, reach out to Will Brandau, the AWSGP Chair (firstname.lastname@example.org / 570-379-2971), who will place you on the email list and begin a dialogue about your interests and needs as they pertain to this group. You can also contact Sarah Wurzbacher at the Penn State Extension Crawford Office (email@example.com / 814-350-7753).
In the meantime, let’s address a few of the basic questions you might have:
Q: Is this a Penn State Extension program?
A: Penn State Extension facilitated the founding of this group, but the leadership (officers, steering committee members) and membership are composed entirely of producers and businesses working directly in the industry as practitioners.
Q: What is the cost of membership?
A: The AWSGP collects modest annual membership dues to cover a few basic expenses (for example, its website): $10 for a participant who does not produce warm-season grasses, $25 for a farmer producing warm-season grasses, and $40 for a business.
Q: Can I see what this group is all about before joining?
A: As a newly established group, the AWSGP welcomes interested individuals to join them for a few calls or meetings before committing to membership and paying dues.
Q: Where else can I find out more?
A: In addition to using the contact information above, you can visit the AWSGP website (http://www.awsgp.org/) or swing by the Penn State Renewable and Alternative Energy table display (in the Harrington Building) at Ag Progress Days (August 16-18), where an AWSGP member will be posted to talk with you. In addition, several AWSGP members will be present at a series of upcoming pellet production workshops happening across Pennsylvania between July and September. Find out more about these workshops at https://www.pnercd.org/.