Several hundred farmers braved cold, wind and rain Tuesday at Emmetsburg, Iowa, to see the latest in pre-commercial equipment designed for harvesting corn cobs for cellulosic ethanol production. Event was the POET Project Liberty field day.
Project Liberty is POET's effort to commercialize cellulosic ethanol. The project will be a 25 million-gallon-per year cellulosic ethanol plant located within the current grain ethanol plant. POET's pilot-scale plant in Scotland, S.D. is already producing cellulosic ethanol at a rate of approximately 20,000 gallons per year.
"We feel this can be a brand new revenue stream for farmers," said Jeff Broin, POET CEO. "It's a tremendous opportunity for farmers and rural America. We had 800 farmers here last year and the equipment continues to improve."
Corn cobs are the feedstock of choice for POET. But collecting corn cobs can be a challenge while trying to get the harvest done on time.
That's why a number of companies have been working with POET, farmers and others for several years to develop commercially viable equipment for collecting, storing and transporting corn cobs to the plant.
Sixteen companies demonstrated a wide variety of such equipment at Emmetsburg -- everything from attachments to the back of the combine to tow behind units that collect and dump or feed into a dump cart.
Here's an example of some of the equipment demonstrated:
AGCO demonstrated a one-pass system that marries the combine to a Hesston large square baler to collect and package clean stover, corn cob and leaf mixture into a 3-foot by 4-foot square bale.
Case IH showed off their "extremely prototype" biomass cart. It's designed to collect grain and cob which would then be run through a separator.
John Deere's unit on the back of the combine is "one pass, two stream machine," according to Dean Acheson. "You can collect only cob or collect more residue with it," he explains.
Dump carts were demonstrated by Oxbo Corp.
Vermeer rolled out their pull type cob collection wagon the enables farmers to harvest both corn and cobs – separately and simultaneously – in one pass.
Other companies who demonstrated include: Claas, Demo, Fantini, Iowa State University, Idaho National Lab, Wildcat, Unverferth, SmithCo, Stinger, Redekop, Milstak and Ken's Truck and Trailer.
Scott Weishar, POET vice president for commercial development, pointed out there are several ways farmers can get help purchasing equipment such as an "early adopter" incentive program from the Department of Energy, Bio Mass Crop Assistance Program from USDA's Farm Service Agency. FSA also has a harvest storage matching payment that is paid when biomass is delivered to an ethanol facility.
This is the second year POET has sponsored a demonstration of cob harvesting equipment. Goal is to not only get equipment designed that will work in a farmer's operation but also to get farmer participation in collecting and storing cobs for the plant. "The sooner you join us the sooner we can get the plant up and running," noted Broin.