VENTNOR -There’s a cheaper, less energy intensive method of processing soybeans into nutritious cattle feed, one that doesn’t involve traditional roasting, according to the manufacturer of a farm-based oilseed pressing system manufactured in Ontario and now deployed on 20 farms in the province.
Selling for approximately $30,000, Energrow Inc.’s fully automated axial screw oilseed press just might have the potential to put the squeeze on the roasting industry if the firm begun by Jasmin Hofer continues to progress.
The numbers appear to be compelling.
Energrow product manager Nick Leja said the ES3750B model installed about a year ago at the Henderson family dairy farm in Ventnor has already paid for itself because the operation no longer buys custom soybean drying services.
"For dairy applications, it’s all about maximum protein for minimum cost. You can make your own protein on farm and save a whole lot," he said.
The per-tonne cost of turning raw soybeans into a pelletized feed emitted by the press is $20, Leja said, comparing it to the $50 to $75 cost of roasting those beans.
That $20 breaks down as $10 for parts, $5 for electricity and $5 labour.
As for nutrition, the coarse-looking pellets contain 42 per cent protein, higher than the 38 per cent of roasted soybeans, which have a relatively higher fat content.
About half of the oil gets pressed out of the beans that are sent through the Energrow press, which accounts for the lower-fat-higher-protein count of the resulting pelleting.
The resulting soybean oil has a number of potential uses, including biofuel or as an ingredient for mixing with other feeds.
In the Hendersons’ case, they trade the oil with a feed mill supplying them with mineral supplements, receiving a credit on their purchase cost. Each tonne of soybeans yields 80 litre of oil out of the Energrow press.
With a milking herd of 140, the farm has realized annual savings of $58,000 on its feed costs by eliminating roasted beans from the menu. It has also generated $8,850 in annual soybean oil revenues.
Hofer, general manager, started Energrow five years ago after graduating from the University of Waterloo in business and German. She got the idea after watching her father experiment with foreign-made oilseed presses at the Hofer family farm in Newton.
"I always wanted to run my own company. And the more I got into this idea, the more I realized how exciting it was. It really is coming along. It really is starting to pick up," said Hofer, whose initiative has won her a number of awards, most recently a 2010 Woman of the Year in Agriculture Award from the 12th Annual Optimism Place Women of the Year Awards.
Meanwhile, Energrow has been getting a distribution chain together.
"We’re finding that nutritional support is really a big, big thing," added Hofer, explaining that farmers require advice from nutritionists versed in the benefits of non-roasted soybean protein sources.
Paul Henderson, one of the partners in the farm that hosted an Energrow open house event last month, had only positive things to say about the oilseed press. "We produce 94 per cent of our own feed, and now we have a little more control over ration costs," he said.