Greenholm Farms in Embro, Ontario is a family dairy farm, with 250 cows, 850 acres of corn, soy and wheat, and a 500 kW biogas plant. The farm is operated by father-son team, Gord and Dave Green, following generations before them – the Green family has been in farming since Gord’s great-great-grandfather purchased the land in 1843. The Greens have worked with PlanET Biogas Solutions since 2012 to install an anaerobic digestion system capable of producing 500 kW of energy using on-farm and off-farm organics.
The Greens had long been interested in ways to incorporate renewable energy into their farm, and biogas was an option that would also add value to the farm operation without needing to purchase additional farmland. Gord and Dave investigated the feasibility of biogas production under RESOP (Ontario Renewable Energy Standard Offer Program) and a few years later the FIT (Feed-in Tariff) program which provided guaranteed pricing for renewable electricity production. In 2012 the Greens determined an on-farm anaerobic digester was economically feasible with the FIT program offering and was granted a long-term contract for electricity production from biogas.
The Greens are owner/operators of the anaerobic digester system that produces biogas for two 250 kW engines. Operation began in January 2013 with a 250 kW FIT contract. They were successful in applying for another FIT contract in 2017 and expanded to add another digester tank and an additional 250 kW engine that began operation in July 2018. The digester is fed 10,000 tonnes of off-farm organics and over 20,000 tonnes of on-farm organics a year including: livestock manure, apple waste, potato waste, grocery store fruits and vegetables, chicken processing by-products, grease trap waste and occasionally by-products of ethanol production. In addition to biogas, the other end-product of the process is digestate, a nutrient rich slurry. The digestate solids and liquids are separated and the solid portion is used for bedding in the dairy barn and the liquid portion is applied to the farmland.
In addition to the added value from selling electricity, a big benefit of the anaerobic digester is the digestate. Gord shares “I cannot emphasis enough how good the digestate is to grow crops, it’s like manure on steroids. The nutrients are more readily available for the crops and we really see them respond well to the digestate”. The reduction of odour compared to manure makes a difference for his neighbours, and the pathogen reduction is very important for the cows since the solids are used as bedding. He included that bringing off-farm material is not only good for energy production, it also brings in valuable extra nutrients the farm that can be returned to the soil. To other farmers interested in adding an anaerobic digester to their operation, Gord recommends dealing with a supplier that is selling a proven product with plants on the ground.
Greenholm Farms has been a member of the CBA since 2011, and Gord has been a member of the Board of Directors for the last two years. Gord’s involvement stems from an understanding of the value of a collective voice representing the sector and dealing with government policies and issues.