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12 highlights from the Terravesta year

  • Blog
  • 7 min read

With a festive flavour, we look back at the highlights from a very busy and productive year. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank our growers, friends and Terravesta supporters for their continued enthusiasm and contribution to the future for this wonderful crop. Here’s to a rewarding 2016 and an even busier and prosperous 2017!

January: Success with farm walks and grower forums

Our growers are at the heart of everything we do, so meeting new farmers on the farm walks and getting feedback at the grower forums is pivotal. We had a great turnout across the four grower forums, which we ran in Yorkshire, East Anglia, the South West and West Midlands, with an average attendance of 25 growers. Topics discussed included market development, haulage, and any big operational changes for the year ahead such as harvest declarations going digital. Overall, the forums give us insight into constructive feedback to develop the strong relationship we have with our growers.

February: Energy Now Expo

A first for the Energy Now Expo, we had a Terravesta branded vintage bus positioned at the entrance of the event, which meant we engaged with a huge number of farmers specifically looking for advice on renewable energy. The event is targeted at farmers and landowners who are interested in getting the latest updates in the renewables sector. It’s a key audience for us, and we presented in the energy crops session on the future of energy crops in the UK. Also speaking was our southern region manager, Mike Cooper, who ran workshops in the renewables advice clinic on growing energy crops.

March: Welcoming Jacob to the Terravesta team

As demand for miscanthus grows, so does our team, and in March we welcomed a valuable new recruit on a part time basis. Jacob Duce is now our full-time sales and marketing manager, and he’s hit the ground running, engaging new growers, organising farm walks, developing market opportunities and running marketing campaigns. Since then, Sam Buckby has also joined the team as our field technician, moving forward our miscanthus breeding development programme. Both new members are a fantastic addition, bringing new energy to our dynamic team.

April: Miscanthus a game changer in building construction

A ground-breaking project began post-harvest ’16, which started exploring the possibility of using miscanthus as a building material. Our head of science and technology, Michal Mos, baled up enough miscanthus bales to build a house, and at the same time, research into using miscanthus bales as a new type of insulation and structural material for building construction started. There’s also the possibility of creating pre-fabricated panels using the crop.

The most ground-breaking thing about miscanthus is that it could decarbonise the construction industry at scale. In conventional building, the carbon footprint is heavy and one house can emit 50 tonnes of CO2. In contrast, approximately 40% of miscanthus biomass is made up of carbon directly captured from the atmosphere in photosynthesis. Locking this carbon up in building materials actually reduces atmospheric levels of CO2.

May: Thank you to our growers during a tough harvest 2016

It’s no secret that harvest 2016 was a challenge. Cutting and baling was delayed and the window was increasingly shortened, because new shoots were beginning to come through, but the wet weather hindered proceedings. Our growers were fantastic, cooperating with the contractors to ensure the vast majority of miscanthus crops across the country were harvested in time. We’d like to thank all our growers for their harvest updates, and for declaring harvest submissions in time despite the difficulty faced.

June: Miscanthus from seed moves a step closer to commercial reality

Farmers and scientists met at Hackthorn, Lincoln, on a farm walk to showcase the huge amount of effort from a number of stakeholders including Terravesta and Aberystwyth University that’s contributed to the ground-breaking miscanthus seed breeding project currently in progress. The day included trial plot tours and presentations from plant scientists and other project contributors. Over 50 people attended, marking the finale of a six year ‘GIANT Link Project’, which has worked towards a target for miscanthus to be available to plant from plugs grown from seed as soon as 2019, and direct drilled a few years after this.

Visitors on the day saw the how the cost of production of miscanthus could be reduced, and characteristics enhanced for specific markets, making it a more economically viable crop. Click here to see our new video encapsulating the whole seed breeding project.

July: CLA Breakfast success

We received fantastic feedback from the first CLA Breakfast which we co-hosted at the Lincolnshire show this summer. The theme was maximising returns from marginal land, and we were thrilled to have Terravesta chairman, William Cracroft-Eley, in attendance. He spoke to an engaged audience of land owners and farmers about the suitability of miscanthus on poor grade, marginal land, and the expanding market for the crop, and the breakfast as a whole was a great success.

August: Terravesta takes on Drax miscanthus growers

In the summer, Drax power station announced it will be ending the ‘Green Shoots’ programme of direct farmer contracts. All existing 70 growers were invited to enter into a ‘Novations Agreement’, where contracts were assigned to Terravesta. We’re honouring the original terms and conditions, having worked with Drax for several years, and we’re confident all our miscanthus growers are in a strong position as we develop a robust and expanding market for the crop.

September: Increased demand for miscanthus growers

This year has shown strong growth in interest of energy generation from biomass, presenting good opportunities for growing miscanthus on long-term contracts. That, coupled with increasing demand from whole bale power stations burning miscanthus, means more planting is needed. We’re looking for more miscanthus growers and in 2017 we will be continuing to roll out a number of farm walks to engage any farmers who are interested in finding about the benefits that the crop presents.

October: Farm walk success

In early October, we had over 30 farmers attend our farm walk at Glentworth Village Hall, Lincolnshire, and it was a great success! The host farmer, Ed Green, led a tour of his miscanthus crop, having cut a path through the plant to demonstrate the density so guests could see the crop profile first hand. We had a number of speakers on the day, including Mike Giffin from AF Biomass, who presented on wheat and barley straw contracts for power generation. This complemented talks from Terravesta chairman, William Cracroft-Eley and Jacob Duce. It was an engaging day, with farmers asking us a host of questions about the markets, the life cycle of the crop, and working with Terravesta, showing they had done their research!

November: Farm Business Innovation Show

We handed out our updated Essential Growers Guide at the Farm Business Innovation Show in Birmingham. And we had plenty of farmers making a B-line to our stand, having attended the event specifically to find out about miscanthus. The show was a great success for us, and we were pleased to have a slot in the seminar theatre from Terravesta chairman, William Cracroft-Eley. He spoke on ‘maximising marginal land with miscanthus’, and with standing room only, the presentations were well received. William tackled some technical questions from producers, wanting to find out the specifics of harvesting in the spring months, reassuring them that we have contractors all over the UK who are well versed in harvesting the crop.

December: 2016 miscanthus in photos

And to round off the year, we have spectacular looking senescing miscanthus crops throughout the UK. We’ve captured some shots of the beautiful display and a few more from the miscanthus cropping year. Take a look: