For all the vehicle enthusiasts, the environmentally conscious, the gearheads, the greasemonkeys, and the forward-thinkers out there, Organic Valley (OV) is doing something that you’ll be interested in. I, for one, am most interested in this topic and it’s the main reason why I traveled over 2,000 miles to get here: BIOFUEL!
Biofuel is liquid fuel that is obtained from biomass (plants or plant-based materials). In 2002 an interest for a renewable resource utilizing waste products rippled through the co-op. The result of this led OV to purchase its first batch of biofuel (a biodiesel product processed from waste vegetable oil) to fuel its diesel fleet. Biodiesel is a combination of alcohol and vegetable oil, animal fat, or recycled cooking grease. It can be used in pure form or as an additive to reduce vehicle emissions.
After much initial research and the construction of a biofuel processing trailer, 2008 marked the year that OV started to grow oilseed crops and produce its own biofuel in order to fuel tractors and landscaping equipment. Today, 32% of the fuel used in OV’s fleet is bio-based. There is even a biodiesel fueling station located at OV headquarters and plans for installing fueling stations at other OV sites are underway.
Organic Oilseed Crops
You’re probably asking yourself what needs to be done to grow an oilseed variety and what the input versus output relationship looks like. Our research shows it is possible for a 50-cow dairy to produce 70% of its fuel needs and more than half its annual protein needs on 15-18 acres.
Typical oilseed crops chosen for biofuel production in the United States include soybeans, corn, sunflowers, canola, flax, and camelina. Organic Valley mainly grows sunflowers and canola for their efficiency. Sunflowers are the most utilized biofuel crop within the co-op because they are easy to grow, versatile, survive well in drought, easy to store, easy to crush, have an aesthetic appeal, and possess good feed meal qualities. When growing these oilseed crops farmers don’t need to do anything special to prep their land. The process starts with a soil sample test and then continuing to farm the land just as you would to grow any other organic crop.
Input vs. Output example :
Sunflowers, Per Acre
The return on investment for sunflowers is pretty favorable, for every $1 of costs required to grow the crop, there is a return of $6 in the resulting meal and oil. For every 1 gallon of diesel fuel needed to grow and process the crop, there is a return of 8-9 gallons depending on yield!
OV Test Plot Results include the following:
Starter Fertilizer $40.00
Land Rent $_____
Average Fuel Usage ($4.00/gal) $32.50
OUTPUT (NET WORTH)
Seed Yield Average 1800 lbs
Protein Meal (1080/2000 x $450.00) $243.00
Biofuel (96 gal x $4.00) $384.00
The biofuel trailer is the main OV facility where biofuel is made and travels all year long to farms, events, and demonstrations for production and outreach purposes. Other than farms, some of the places the trailer has been to include living green home shows, farmer regional meetings, colleges, and The Ohio Farm Science Review.
Not only does the trailer press oilseed crops into oil to eventually make into biodiesel, but it also turns the rest of the crop into meal. This high-protein byproduct acts as a supplementary livestock feed.
Organic Valley/CROPP Cooperative is committed to making the world a better place and our biodiesel program is just one example of our efforts!