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Waiting to make poop power pay

By Leslie Ballentine, Farming and food commentator

Alternative energy is becoming increasingly important in our oil-limited world.  Record high gas prices at the pump and creeping hydro bills are just signs of things to  come.  Farm equipment manufacturers are saying that farmers need more incentives to generate alternative energy from sources such as livestock manure.

Although the technology to turn poop (and other food and farm wastes) into clean energy has been commercially available in Canada for more than a decade, it hasn’t taken off the way I think it should. I got involved in the development of bio-diesel about ten years ago. The livestock and poultry farmers I worked for at the time saw the technology as a way to deal with shrinking markets and opportunities to recycle animal by-products. The technology has improved since then but the costs have not.

For example, one company, Bio-Terre Systems, has developed a low temperature anaerobic digestion system for processing farm manure and other organic wastes. The new system operates at lower temperatures than conventional systems cutting operating costs. Other companies have come-up with a new generation of extractors to improve the quality of bio-fuels that can be used in our vehicles. Farmers can use the energy to power their farms or sell it back to the electricity grid.

So what is holding it back? Right now although the technology is available the business incentives are not. Farm engineer Dennis Hodgkinson says environmental regulators in Canada have been slow to embrace anaerobic digestion and he believes that is slowing the advancement of the technology.

Mr Hodgkinson says the Europeans have built hundreds of conventional anaerobic digesters on farms but that development has been supported by preferential treatment. In Canada these business incentives, tax incentives and preferential green energy rates, don’t exist in our every day business, he says.

Right now, he explains, it is individual farmers that are choosing to make personal investments to adopt the technology because they believe in its potential.  Eventually he predicts  the economic circumstances will develop to make it attractive to both farmers and energy buyers.

This is a good technology, it can make real environmental improvements and it already has in a limited way. Now it is a matter of waiting for the economic circumstances to be right. That means waiting for even higher prices at the pump.

Until the next BLOG.

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Posted by FFC on April 9th, 2012 :: Filed under animal by-products,Innovation and technology,Sustainability
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Stewardship

Guest blog:  By a  B.C. dairy farmer

To me, the word sustainable has become a buzz word,or marketing doublespeak. As an all encompassing management practice, I prefer the term stewardship. And I try to put this into practice in all areas, not strictly agriculture. As a Christian, I have a biblical mandate to manage what I have been given.

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Posted by FFC on March 19th, 2012 :: Filed under Animal care,Dairy cattle,Future of Farming,Sustainability
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Are grass-fed cows better for the earth?

By Leslie Ballentine, Farming and food commentator

It’s no wonder there’s a growing perception that farms which feed cattle on grass for their entire lives, are better for the environment than farms that finish their pasture-raised cattle in feedlots with grain. The image is that the grass is always lush and plentiful and the cattle self feed themselves with little dependence on machinery or other energy consuming equipment. Whether or not science has confirmed this perception is another story.

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Posted by FFC on March 13th, 2012 :: Filed under Beef cattle,Environment,Food,Misconceptions,Retailers,Sustainability
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Sustainability is all the buzz in the retail world

By Leslie Ballentine, Farming and food commentator
 
According to the numerous trends lists that I have been reading, the buzz around food sustainability will continue to increase, driven by the food industry and retailers like Wal-Mart. This includes social, economic and environmental sustainability – lower greenhouse gas emissions, smaller carbon footprints, fair(er) trade and pricing policies, and responsible production practices. Food manufacturers and retailers now have whole departments devoted to corporate social responsibility. As buyers of farm products they have influence with their suppliers over how products may and may not be produced.

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Posted by FFC on October 19th, 2011 :: Filed under Retailers,Sustainability,Sustainability of the family farm
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The customer isn’t always right

By: Leslie Ballentine, Farming and food commentator

I remember my marketing professor telling the class that: “People are motivated by their own interests, not yours.” So that means it’s important to meet their demands and pay attention to their opinions— discerningly.

It’s not that we in the farming and food communities shouldn’t listen to customers or place special emphasis on understanding their wants and needs, concerns and complaints. It’s that we should do so with discretion: Sometimes the customer is just plain wrong.

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Posted by FFC on August 15th, 2011 :: Filed under Consumers,Economics,Sustainability
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Ontario veal farm digester turns manure into power for neighbouring homes

On Wednesday June 29, 2011, Delft Blue Veal Farms (division of Grober Inc.) proudly hosted the event, Harvesting Clean Energy on Ontario Farms

Delft Blue's digester

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Posted by FFC on July 20th, 2011 :: Filed under animal by-products,Environment,Manure,Sustainability,Veal
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Perception marketing takes advantage of consumers and farmers

By Leslie Ballentine, Farming and food commentator

When it comes to food marketing, I’m starting to believe that both consumers and farmers may be getting the short end of the stick.

Perhaps farmers have been too focused on what they do best; producing an abundant and generally safe supply of food at a reasonable price to consumers, to worry about misleading advertising.  Perhaps consumers don’t know enough about farm practices to see past the marketing hype to be able to make an informed purchasing choice.

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Posted by FFC on May 5th, 2011 :: Filed under Chickens,Consumers,Misconceptions,Poultry,Sustainability,Urban Myths
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Food prices are up – but what’s to blame?

by Patricia Grotenhuis, lifelong farmer and agricultural advocate

Food prices are drawing a lot of media attention lately. It seems everything is increasing in price, both at grocery stores and at restaurants. Many different factors have been blamed for these price increases, but regardless of the reason, the outcome is the same. In some cases, food prices rise at the store without any increase for the farmer.

A Manitoba study showed the cost of a week’s worth of groceries for a family of four rose by $6.01 from 2008 to 2009, but farmers received $0.86 less. In 2009, beef farmers received $2.05 for the 600 grams of sirloin tip beef that cost you $9.15 in the store. In 2008, by comparison, the farmer also received $2.05 for the same cut of beef, but you only paid $4.61.

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Posted by FFC on April 19th, 2011 :: Filed under Economics,Farm life,Feeding the world,Misconceptions,Sustainability,Sustainability of the family farm
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