Wednesday, 13 March 2013
Nuffield Contemporary Scholars Conference - Tuesday
Tuesday morning was an early start in the meeting hall for an introduction into the bio products industry from some very innovative and positive people. Innovation is a message I am starting to hear loud and clear! First on the scene with a very positive opening you tube clip 'So God Made a Farmer' was Dr Gord Surgeoner who quoted to us that most people don't change because they see the light, rather they change because they feel the heat' He also said that there is no such thing as waste, something we'll touch on later. Two other speakers followed, Hamdy Khalil who has a very interesting business making car parts out of soybean oil derivatives, such as door panels, head rests and many others. Following up and last on before we boarded a couple of coaches to head out and explore was Dr Amar Mohanty. We learnt about the different generations of biofuels about how ethanol is used replacing petroleum products. We also heard about economic, environmental and social sustainability, which as a LEAF demonstration farmer I was glad to hear and many messages were the same.
We were welcomed fabulously at the Hensall District Co-op early afternoon. The co-op was founded in 1937 and currently has over 4,200 farmer members. The main part of the business is GM free IP (Identity Preserved) soybean storage, cleaning and packing. IN total they would deal with over 100,000T of IP soybeans a year with most of that being exported to Asia. Beans are sourced from all over the Ontario area but also Quebec, Saskatchewan, North Dakota and Minnesota. Sourcing GM free beans is becoming increasingly hard to achieve, especially from the US as well over 95% of bean grown now are GM and from Canada that figure is slightly lower at 83%. In addition to soybeans they also deal with navy beans, kidney beans, kin to beans, and small red beans, to name a few. About 50% of the beans used in the UK for baked beans will be handled by this co-op!
The scale was very impressive, two 200T driers capable of dealing some very impressive tonnages taking moisture out of corn from 25% down to 15% for storage . There was even a rail link to the site for deliveries of fertiliser and fuel, tow other aspects of the Co-op's business. Other aspects involved included a crop walking service with 15 fieldsmen and a contracting service offering spraying and fertiliser applications. An alarming fact we also heard was that 75% of Canadian farmers plan to retire in the next 5 years!
We met Greg briefly who was tipping a load of beans at the site. The lorry was very impressive, carrying upwards of 42T of produce. there did seem to be a lot of activity around all the time we were there. Most of the beans are exported in bags up to 2 T in weight in 20' containers. These are trucked to Toronto before being loaded onto trains and sent to Vancouver or Montreal or Halifax depending on their destination.
Here are the New Zealand team, Steve, Lisa, Sophie, Natasha and Tafi, looking suitably cold! It was an interesting experience for some of the Australian guys who had never actually seen snow before.
After the co-op visit we boarded the bus and headed down the road to meet Don Nott who has been growing switchgrass to use as agricultural fibre. the grass is mowed down in the autumn and left in the swath, on the stubble to release impurities over the winter before being baled up in the spring. Don has tried a few different methods of getting this operation correct and he thinks it's sorted now. The fibre produced is being used to make a chip board type material that is very strong and light.
Dinner was served in the Amish Mennonite community at Anna Mae's cafe which was a very different experience. Driving around seeing horse and buggies being used for transport.
Not like this guy, John Hodgson who has stopped off for some supper with a load of hogs in the trailer!
After a very homely dinner of carrots, potatoes, corn, beef and turkey, followed by some tremendous lemon meringue pie and then cherry pie and then pecan pie, it was off back to our hotel. A great day and so nice to be out in the fresh air!