Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Hidden Harvest -- The Business of Collecting Biomass

Biomass energy can create a large number of business and employment opportunities at the local and regional levels.  Since biomass can be grown virtually anywhere on the surface of Earth -- land or sea -- it is important for profitable and systematic ways of gathering and concentrating the biomass to be devised.  But if there is a profit in it, and if the government does not tax and regulate it to death, entrepreneurs will come along to provide the expertise.

"Our model is to go from the first cutting of alfalfa into pea vines, then roll into the first cutting of timothy (hay), then roll into bluegrass, then ryegrass, then bean vines, then wheat straw, and then corn stover."

"In 2007-08 we actually baled 11 months of the year, because we baled corn stover all winter long," he said.

The business is unique in that it provides farmers with revenue from crop residue they otherwise would plow under.

"I've had farmers say, 'We don't know why you pay us, because if you didn't pay us, we'd have to pay you to come do this,'" he said.

"We coined what we do as the hidden harvest," he said.

Levy delivers his product to dairies, including large operations, such as Threemile Canyon Farms in Boardman, Ore., and to exporters for shipment to Asia, where it is used as feed for dairy and beef cattle.

Expansion into bio-energy, he said, will allow him to scale up the number of farms and acres he serves.

Levy, 33, graduated from Oregon State University in 1999 with a business already in hand. He and a friend from the agricultural college, Jeremy Kennel, had started baling grass seed straw in Hermiston and the Willamette Valley in 1998.

"We had 8,000 tons that first year," he said.

Levy bought out Kennel five years ago and moved his operation out of the Willamette Valley, settling in Hermiston.

Pacific Ag Solutions today runs one of the largest haying fleets in the U.S. Last year, the business contracted with 50 growers and harvested 70,000 acres of crop residue and dedicated feed stock.

Levy said customers tend to stay with him: Several have been with him all 12 years he's been in business. One reason for the longevity, he believes, is he stayed focused.

"We've never vertically integrated into owning a feedlot or dairy or exporting our own product," he said. "We've always left that to others.

"I think it's been a good move because I think it has kept our focus on what we are good at," he said.

Levy characterizes his expansion into the bio-energy industry as a third leg of his business model. __ 
This small example of biomass collection illustrates the difference between an entrepreneur and a college professor or intellectual.  An entrepreneur looks for problems to solve, in order to make a profit and stay in business -- to become economically sustainable.  An entrepreneur is a man of action.  An intellectual is a man of the mind, often with no practical value or competence.  A college professor, for example, is primarily interested in tenure, and secondarily interested in grants, political status and publication.

Modern society is run by intellectuals, which is one of the main reasons it is collapsing under its own dead weight.

Things tend to even out over time.



Blogger J. Paige said...

Municipalities (some counties) counties are in the business of collecting large amounts of biomass, both trash and yard waste. It's their responsibility, and if someone's biz model shows them a way to make a buck or hedge costs, then that's a big step.

Lots of biomass collected in wastewater systems also, but it is dilute. WWTP organisms concentrate it, but still relatively dilute. If can make non-aqueous product then separation not such a bugaboo, maybe sift value from the dross in this area.

7:31 AM  

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