AGCO Corporation, a leading manufacturer and distributor of agricultural equipment, is applying its experience and innovation in harvesting and haying equipment to the development of efficient and affordable means for harvesting and transporting crop residue for cellulosic feedstock.
After several years of research and development, AGCO's first prototype biomass harvesting system will be demonstrated Nov. 3 at the POET Project LIBERTY Field Day near Emmetsburg, Iowa. Project LIBERTY will produce 25 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol per year from corn cobs. POET is currently working with 14 farmers in the Emmetsburg area on a pre-commercial harvest, and biomass is a major area of interest.
"Across the country the cellulosic biofuels industry is providing our customers with a new revenue opportunity. But, as this market develops, equipment solutions are needed to help growers efficiently harvest and transport high-tonnage biomass feedstock to cellulosic bio-fuel processors," says Dean Morrell, product marketing manager for hay and forage harvesting. "AGCO is committed to developing practical and efficient solutions growers need to take advantage of these income opportunities."
The biomass harvesting system currently in development at AGCO is a one-pass system which marries proven combine technology and the durable, reliable Hesston large square baler to collect and package clean corn stover, corn cob and leaf mixture into a 3-foot by 4-foot square bale. The time-saving system requires just one pass through the field for both grain and crop-residue harvest. In addition, it provides a biomass product that has minimal silicon content (dirt) as compared to other collection and storage options.
"Large square bales are efficient to stack, store and transport," explains Morrell. "We believe this system will be easily adapted to other sources of biomass such as switchgrass. It also provides a clean, superior corn-stock-based after-feed or bedding for beef and dairy operations." Though not yet commercially available, the system is expected to be offered for all Class VIII combines from AGCO and other manufacturers. AGCO offers a full line of products including tractors, combines and windrowers to compliment the entire biomass collection process.
"The new crop residue harvesting system AGCO is developing for corn, offers farmers many time-saving, convenience and efficiency benefits. We're anxious to showcase the machine during the Project LIBERTY Field Day and get input and reaction of the local farmers who are taking advantage of corncobs as a new revenue source," says Mike Roth, P.E., POET biomass program director. "The development of biomass harvesting equipment is of critical importance to the nation's renewable energy goals, and it is exciting to see the advances made by companies like AGCO."
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