Poundmaker Ag-Ventures Ltd. near Lanigan is Canada’s first integrated facility where ethanol, a clean-burning fuel that reduces harmful emissions, is made from grain, and cattle are fed the by-product of the brewing process.
Poundmaker Ag-Ventures was established in 1970s when area farmers were looking for an alternative market for their grain. The feedlot that originally could handle 4,500 cattle was expanded by the mid-1980s to 8,500. Poundmaker Ag-Ventures provided area farmers with an opportunity to diversify and market their grain locally.
In 1991, based on the recommendations of a series of feasibility studies, a 10,000-head feedlot and a 10-million-litre ethanol plant were constructed. Money was raised through a secondary share offering which expanded the local ownership base to 200 people from the original fifty. Shareholders also obtained the first right to deliver their grain to the new facility, assuming price and quality of their grain was equal to the grain being offered by farmers who were not shareholders. In 1998, another expansion resulted in a one-time feedlot capacity of 28,500 head and yearly marketing of 54,000 cattle.
More than 8,500 bushels of barley and rye each day is mixed with barley silage, green feed and hay and then combined with the wet distiller’s grain, which is also called mash, to be fed to the cattle in the feedlot.
Grain is processed with enzymes and the mash is distilled to produce a high quality alcohol. Fuel grade ethanol is about 99% pure alcohol and has a number of important properties that make it an excellent fuel additive for automobiles. Ethanol is a clean burning fuel, containing 35% oxygen that encourages a more complete combustion of gasoline in automobiles and, as a result, reduces harmful emissions.
Poundmaker Ag-Ventures has fifty employees, generates annual sales of $47 million and uses 3,500 bushels of grain each day. With that grain, the company produces 35,000 litres of ethanol daily, and the by-product from the distilling process is added to the feed for the cattle. Ethanol has been embraced by consumers. More than five billion litres of ethanol now is mixed with gasoline in Canada and the United States each year.