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Author: L. Smith
Source: ABC Rural
Date: 17 July 2015

A tomato farm in Tasmania’s north-west is turning to India’s latest technology in renewable energy to reduce its power bills and improve yields.

The Brandsema’s at Turners Beach plan to install a biomass gasifier to power its greenhouses. The gasification system, built in India, turns agricultural or forest waste into energy and as a by-product, creates CO2 for plants. 

Grower Marcus Brandsema recently travelled to India. He met with manufacturers and engineers to watch the biomass plants in action. “What happens is the organic material goes into a gasifier,” he said.

“It’s operating at a reasonably high temperature, around 800 degrees Celsius or thereabouts, in a reduced oxygen atmosphere. “The organic material doesn’t actually burn, but it oxidises and gives off a gas which is useful to use downstream.

“They clean it and use it in an engine, which can drive a generator, or a pump, or alternatively the gas can be used as fuel source.” Mr Brandsema is particularly attracted to the system’s ability to generate additional CO2 for the greenhouse to enhance photosynthesis.

“Once the gas is produced we can then use it to fire a boiler to create hot water, which is what we need, especially in Tassie’, to grow tomatoes,” he said. “But the by-product of that is CO2, which would normally go up the flue as an emission, we could extract from the flue and introduce it into the greenhouse.” 

Mr Brandsema said further research is needed to establish the concentration of CO2 per unit of biomass. He also hopes to subsidise the installation cost of the plant. “After all, we are displacing a fossil fuel LPG with biomass, which is a renewable, be it wood waste or pyrethrum or any other biomass waste stream,” he said.

“So that’s got to be a good thing from an environmental perspective, so there might be some initiative in that regard as well.”

Read the article at ABC Rural