Farm Ireland

Saturday 16 December 2017

Cork beet producers to grow 6,000ac for the North

Darragh McCullough and Declan O'Brien

Cork beet growers are in line to secure contracts to grow 6,000ac of fodder beet next year to supply anaerobic digesters in Northern Ireland.

Up to 400 enthusiastic farmers attended a meeting in the Park Hotel, Midleton, east Cork, last Friday, to hear about details of a new joint venture that aims to contract more than 200,000t of beet in 2012 at €35/t collected from the farm.

Northern Ireland-based Ecoventi has already appointed east Cork dairy farmer Micheal Cullinane as its agent for sourcing feed stock for the 22 anaerobic digesters that it has already pushed through or submitted for planning permission in the North.

While maize has already been bought this year to supply anaerobic digesters north of the border, Ecoventi is targeting fodder beet because of its higher calorific density and questions over the reliability of maize yields, especially in the northern half of the country.

Mr Cullinane, operating as Ecobeet, says that he will have €10m lodged in an account in Midleton within four weeks to cover all costs of growing and transporting 6,000ac of beet from farms within 30 miles of Cork Harbour next year.

He says that Ecoventi will ship the beet to ports in Belfast and Derry for €10/t.

"Shipping the beet will also minimise the operation's carbon footprint compared to trucking it up the country," he said. When asked why Ecobeet wasn't looking at sourcing fodder beet outside of Cork, Mr Cullinane said that with yields 2-3t/ac higher in Cork than elsewhere in Ireland, and the fact that it could be shipped so cheaply, Cork was a logical starting point.

"This is only the start and we hope to be moving up the country in the future as this thing grows," he added.

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Ecobeet is partnering with Southern Fuels to supply the inputs.

At least one six-row harvester and several beet washers will be made available to growers, says Southern Fuels' owner Maurice Smiddy.

"The beet must be supplied washed and unbruised since this affects the amount of gas that the crop can produce," he said. "

The minimum acreage for each farmer will be 20ac and there will be a charge of approximately €115/ac plus VAT for the harvester, depending on diesel prices. A bonus of €1/t will be paid to farmers who reach their contracted tonnage."

Mr Cullinane, who milks 250 cows near Ladysbridge, said he expected to have enough growers signed up within seven-to-10 days.

"We handed out preliminary contracts last Friday, but nothing is going to be signed with anybody until the funding is all in place," he said.

Ecoventi is tied in with Dutch anaerobic digester manufacturer the Big Dutchman and has private funding from a Saudi Arabian-based investor.

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