Case Studies

PROPANE IN AGRICULTURE: CASE STUDIES

The best way to learn the benefits of adding propane equipment to your operation is hearing from people who are already putting it to work on theirs. They can tell you everything you need to know about propane’s effectiveness and efficiency, and how it benefits them every single day.

IRRIGATION ENGINES

SHENANDOAH DAIRY – LIVE OAK, FLORIDA

Established in 1987, Shenandoah Dairy is a large, family-owned farm and dairy operation in Live Oak, Florida. The company milks approximately 3,300 cows annually and grows more than half of the cows’ feed on-site with corn, sorghum, oats, and ryegrass forages. It currently keeps 2,000 acres under irrigation year-round and harvests, stores, and feeds 45,000 tons of crops annually.

After upgrading the majority of its 23-pivot irrigation systems to Tier 3 diesel engines or electric motors, the company experienced performance issues and electronic problems that adversely impacted the farm’s bottom line and emissions goals.

“I was spending more time driving out to check [the engines] to see if they were working, or driving around to get parts when they break, burning more fuel and producing more carbon emissions than before,” said Ted Henderson, vice president of Shenandoah Dairy.

After discussing options with Todd Lawrence, general manager with the local farm supply outlet, Farmers Cooperative, he decided to purchase a Ford 6.8-liter, propane-powered irrigation engine from Engine Distributors, Inc. (EDI).

“I thought it would be hard to make the conversion to propane, but they knew everything about what I was trying to do,” Henderson said. “Propane already burns clean and meets all the specifications. There was nothing to do with it other than get it there and get it into place.”

The engine’s purchase price was $6,000 less than the same Tier 3-compliant diesel model and the company also received an incentive through PERC’s Propane Farm Incentive Program. Henderson estimates Shenandoah will save about $10,000 a year by using propane compared with diesel.

Grain DRYERS

MAPLE LANE FARMS – MARIETTA, NEW YORK

TODAY’S PROPANE GRAIN DRYERS USE UP TO 50% LESS THERMAL ENERGY TO DO THE SAME JOB AS PREVIOUS GENERATIONS OF DRYERS

Established in the 1920s, Maple Lane Farms in Marietta, N.Y., has grown from a small, 100-acre farm to a 1,000-acre family-owned business. The farm includes 450 dairy cows and produces corn, soybeans,
wheat, and hay.

“The new dryer always puts corn out at the same moisture,” Leubner said. “With it being so consistent and accurate, we are able to start harvesting earlier and get better grain quality.”Today, Tim, Charlie, Ed, and Karen Leubner — grandchildren of the farm’s original owners — oversee day-to-day operations. In 2013, they replaced an older model of Mathews Company (M-C), purchased in 1980, with a new M-C crop dryer with enhanced efficiency and features — including the ability to measure incoming and discharged grain moisture, more accurate and reliable moisture control, and vacuum cooling. At the end of its first year in use, the Leubners cut overall drying costs by 38 percent per bushel.

BUILDING HEAT

SWIFT GREENHOUSES – GILMAN, IOWA

PROPANE HEATING SYSTEMS MAINTAIN PRECISE ROOM TEMPERATURES WITHIN 0.5 DEGREES FAHRENHEIT OF DESIRED TEMPERATURE

Swift Greenhouses operates two 30,000-gallon tanks on its 4.5-acre operation as well as propane-powered boilers, which heat water that is pumped through coils in the concrete floor creating radiant heat throughout the room. Temperature sensors check the air around the coils, ensuring plants are at an ideal temperature for each stage of growth.

Swift Greenhouses grows roughly 1,300 varieties of perennials and herbs, requiring a diverse range of optimal temperatures for each type of plant and its specific stage of growth. Ideal temperatures also vary by time of day, another capability of easily-controlled, precise propane heating equipment.

FORKLIFTS

RENZE DISPLAY – OMAHA, NEBRASKA

Renze display uses propane forklifts to move giant exhibits and trade show displays around its warehouse and to load and unload its trucks. After purchasing electric forklifts in 2001 and 2004, the company switched to propane forklifts for increased reliability, which is critical to meet the companies quick turnaround requirements when working with up to 100 clients daily.

“Electric forklifts were not a good fit for us,” said Bryan Meusch, senior exhibit manager at Renze Display. With propane forklifts, “there’s a lot more power and a lot more lift capacity to where we don’t have to worry about tipping over a forklift.”

Because the forklifts primarily operate indoors, diesel forklifts and their accompanying fumes were never an option for a clean work environment. Propane also fits well with Renze’s goals to be environmentally responsible, functioning on a closed-loop fuel system requiring no additional demands from the Environmental Protection Agency for contamination or clean-up.

FLAME WEEDING

NEWMAN FARMS – SUMTER, SOUTH CAROLINA

Lee Newman, owner of Newman Farms near Sumter, South Carolina, is constantly analyzing and searching
for the most effective, cost-efficient means of running his organic farm — which includes organic tobacco, corn, soybeans, wheat, and cotton. Because his products are certified organic, all farming techniques must be meticulously evaluated.

“IT WAS HARD TO BELIEVE A PROPANE WEED FLAMER COULD REALLY REMOVE WEEDS IN THE WAY I REQUIRED, BUT I WAS QUICKLY AMAZED AT ITS CAPABILITIES. WHEN SET UP PROPERLY, IT WILL KILL 100 PERCENT OF WEEDS.”

LEE NEWMAN
OWNER OF NEWMAN FARMS

“Controlling weeds in an organic environment where you can’t use any herbicide is a challenge tobacco farmers have struggled with for years,” said Newman. “It was hard to believe a propane weed flamer could really remove weeds in the way I required, but I was quickly amazed at its capabilities. When set up properly, it will kill 100 percent of weeds.”

Before flame weeding, Newman Farms would remove weeds by hand, which was three to four times as expensive when compared to running the propane system. With a lower carbon content than gasoline and diesel, clean propane is also nontoxic and insoluble in water — making it safe in contact with aquifers, streams, and soil.

“I have been amazed with the system’s capabilities,” said Newman. “Even tobacco farmers who are not certified organic are experiencing benefits from using this method.”

PROPANE: FARM FUEL OF THE FUTURE

Because propane farm equipment is EPA- and CARB-certified, built from the ground up to run on propane, and operates on an independent system to avoid grid-related power interruptions or gas line fluctuations, it is a convenient solution to meet environmental regulations and gain control over your farm.

As an increasing number of farm applications and new generation, innovative propane-powered equipment becomes available, propane is becoming the go-to fuel to power your entire farm.

Download Case Study