Adam Kaiser, who farms southeast of here, feels like he’s on the verge of something big.
Kaiser is one of a handful of Weld County farmers who are members of Blue Sun Producers Inc., the state’s only farmer-owned, biodiesel-producing cooperative. The cooperative, which has about 40 members in the state, is the primary supplier for Blue Sun Biodiesel, a Fort Collins-based agriculture energy company.
Biodiesel is a combination of diesel fuel and oil derived from oilseed crops — mustard, flax and canola — that reduce production costs of the fuel by 40 percent. Most biodiesel is now made from the more expensive soybean oils. About 75 percent of the total cost of biodiesel comes from the crops that produce the needed oil.
Research shows a renewable, clean-burning, high-performing, premium diesel fuel is produced from those crops. It works in all diesel engines without any modifications to those engines and burns cleaner, reducing toxic emissions.
Last week, Kaiser planted 40 acres of mustard.
“I think it’s going to be exciting to be on the ground floor of this thing,” Kaiser said.
Most of the mustard grown in Colorado this year will be on dryland farms in eastern Colorado. Kaiser plans to irrigate his crop, but the fact that it doesn’t need a lot of water is a plus.
“It’s going to take minimal irrigation. I think we’ve got decent water this year, but if water comes up short I can take the water off the mustard and use it for my corn and dry beans,” he said.
The plant grows to a height of about 3 feet and during the summer produces a yellow flower. Kaiser said he plans to harvest it much like he would a wheat or dry bean crop. The plant produces shatter-resistant pods that have 10 to 12 seeds each. Mustard seeds have an oil content of about 35 to 37 percent, compared to soybeans, which have a content of about 17 percent, Kaiser said.
Based on two- to three-year averages from test plots at universities and farmers in other areas who have grown mustard, a dryland crop will produce about 1,000 pounds per acre. Irrigated mustard will produce an average of 3,000 pounds and there have been reports of 3,800 pounds.
Earlier this year, the cooperative was awarded a $450,000 U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development grant. That grant will be used as a price support of 12 cents a pound for mustard produced in the state this year, up from a base price of about 8 to 8.5 cents per pound.
All of the Colorado crop will go to Blue Sun Biodiesel of Fort Collins. Blue Sun was founded in 2001 to capitalize on the growing market for biodiesel. The company is engaged in all phases of biodiesel production, from agricultural research and development to fuel processing, distribution and customer service.
Jeff Propst, chief operating officer and president of Blue Sun, said this year’s crop will be sent to a sunflower processing plant in Goodland, Kan., or to a plant in Lamar, depending on which operation will provide the best deal. One of those plants will extract the oil from the mustard seeds.
Biodiesel is made through a chemical process called transesterification, whereby the glycerin is separated from the fat or vegetable oil. The process leaves behind two products — methyl esters (the chemical name for biodiesel) and glycerin (a valuable byproduct usually sold to be used in soaps and other products).
“So we’re basically going to using 100 percent of the crop,” Kaiser said.
Propst said Blue Sun is certified to mix the biodiesel, as is Gray Oil of Fort Lupton and a company in Commerce City.
He said there will be in excess of 10,000 acres of mustard seed grown in Colorado this year, with that acreage spread from the Eastern Plains to the San Luis Valley.
Blue Sun is generating sales revenue through an expanding customer base that includes the city of Boulder, the University of Colorado, Aspen Homes of Colorado, Waste-Not Recycling, Rocky Mountain National Park and others.
“When Colorado farmers transform their product into biodiesel, they generate revenue for themselves and their communities,” Propst said. “We think this is just the start of a viable new enterprise for farmers and consumers alike.
03/14/2004 Bill Jackson, greeleytrib.com