Ontario company seeks land in Hants

Leased fields to grow energy crop for Hantsport plant

Ashley Thompson athompson@hantsjournal.ca
Published on July 15, 2012

Farmers with empty fields may have a new avenue to explore in the near future.

An Ontario-based company wants to sink money into Nova Scotia’s agricultural land.

Pro Farm Energy Inc. president Mark Thiessen says his company is looking to lease thousands of acres of agricultural land in hopes of growing enough Miscanthus giganteus to feed a 10-megawatt power plant developed by Minas Basin Pulp and Power Co. Ltd.

Thiessen says little will be expected of landowners with property to spare for a non-invasive perennial that will be nurtured by people on Pro Farm’s payroll.

“All they’ll be required to do is price their land and receive a lease payment on an annual basis,” he said in a phone interview.

“We’re offering three years (of) rental payments up front and also inflation adjustments annually throughout the term.”

Pro Farm is interested in land in Hants, Kings, Annapolis, Digby, Colchester, Cumberland, Lunenburg, Halifax and Pictou counties.

Borrowed parcels will be returned to the owner in an “agriculture ready state” when Pro Farm’s lease is up, Thiessen noted.

“We’re going to be investing roughly $2,000 per acre of production.”

Nova Scotia Power Inc. has signed on to purchase the green energy generated by the burning of Miscanthus giganteus at the biomass plant.

The bamboo-like crop, which is cut and baled like hay, is combusted in a boiler, where, when burned, it generates a high-powered steam that turns a turbine, Thiessen explained.

Pro Farm plans to get seeds in the ground next year. It takes three years for Miscanthus giganteus, a crop known to grow 12 feet high, to reach full production.

“It’s a cost effective, green energy production system, which is carbon neutral, and we’ll be employing up to 40 full-time jobs.”

John Woods, the vice president of energy development at Minas Basin Pulp and Power,says the proposed biomass plant will be ready, and waiting, when the crops become available in the next few years.

“There are a number of biomass power plants in Europe, especially in the United Kingdom, that are hungry for this fuel,” Woods said.

“We could have a significant industry here, supplying not only Nova Scotia with a greener industry, but also exporting this to the United Kingdom where there is already a market.”

The plant will burn traditional biomass, such as residuals from a forest, and Miscanthus giganteus, which, Woods says, is an economical option that’s easier to transport.

Pro Farm Energy is seeking landowners willing to engage in 10 to 20-year lease contracts starting in 2013. Applications are available at www.profarmenergy.com