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Energy crops show promise in Ontario


March 30, 2012
By Dave Harrison

March 30, 2012, Simcoe, Ont. — A new report shows there’s a business opportunity for developing a biomass industry in Ontario.

March 30, 2012, Simcoe, Ont. — A new report shows there’s a business opportunity for developing a biomass industry in Ontario.

Leading biomass crops include miscanthus, switchgrass, sorghum and tall prairie grass, and all can be grown to produce energy.

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The study, “Assessment of the Business Case for Purpose-Grown Biomass in Ontario,” makes a clear business case for using biomass crops to generate heat and power in select Ontario markets.

Farmers can grow these crops with a margin comparable to that of more traditional cash crops, like corn, wheat and soybeans, while at the same time improving the soil and the environment by growing these perennial grasses.

“The current status of biomass economics is different than it was even two years ago,” says Dr. Aung Oo of the BioIndustrial Innovation Centre, the report’s primary researcher.

“With this report and economic model, we can make projections for the industry on the viability of purpose-grown biomass.”

The business case is expected to improve significantly as more of the crops are grown, especially as plant breeding and advances in production practices help increase yields.

Since there is a future for the purpose-grown biomass industry, farmers are encouraged to include these crops in Ontario’s agricultural system.

REPORT AUTHORS
The report was authored by Oo, Charles Lalonde and Dr. John Kelly for the Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Growers’ Association (OFVGA), Erie Innovation and Commercialization and the Ontario Federation of Agriculture.

It addresses the economics of biomass through an analysis of costs of production and returns to growers, aggregators and end users. Projections are made to provide benchmark information to any stakeholder in the value chain.

“We think that these projections will give stakeholders the best information available when they are considering biomass as a diversification strategy” says the OFVGA’s Dr. Kelly. “We know that an educated and well informed producer of biomass will be a better producer of biomass.”

As the biomass economy matures, there will be opportunities to improve these projections. In the meantime, “the report is as robust as possible and can be used for business planning as well as for public policy determination,” adds Lalonde.

Erie Innovation and Commercialization is part of the Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Growers’ Association, with the purpose to pursue a regional approach to agricultural diversification to ensure the continuing economic stability and sustainability of the sector and to harness the region’s potential and become a rural economic powerhouse in Ontario and Canada.

A copy of the report is available at www.erieinnovation.com/documents.html.


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