11 April 1997

On-farm crushing plant taps oils full potential

AN on-farm oilseed crushing plant which will allow a Staffordshire rape and borage grower to add value to oilseed crops is now operational.

The plant will enable new markets to be developed, so more of the oils inherent value is retained by the primary producer.

The unique plant, which has a capacity of 2000t a year, has been installed on Graham Lees 400ha (1000-acre) Statfold Barn Farm near Tamworth. "About five years ago I became aware that designer oils were being developed and could see farmers would be expected to grow them for £150/t, while others had the added value," says Mr Lee, chairman of a group of engineering companies.

"I felt this was wrong and that farmers should retain more of the profit from added-value produce."

After an exhaustive search a cold press suitable for further development was found on the Continent. Two were imported and modifications made at one of Mr Lees engineering companies. Patents are now pending.

The units were installed earlier this year. Each has a twin 4t hopper, with seed gravity fed into an Archimedean screw which compresses seed against seed before forcing it through an adjustable aperture.

Unlike big crushing mills, which run at high temperatures to achieve the desired throughput, the small machines run at 40C-50C (104F-122F). That avoids damage to the oils nutritionally valuable ingredients and production of the sticky glycerine that gums up engine fuel injectors.

All the natural components of the oil are retained and hardly any gums are produced, says Mr Lee.

"We now have the capability of crushing our own home-grown rape and using the oil to fuel our tractors and combine," he says. But if industrial, food, pharmaceutical and cosmetic markets can be found those will be far more profitable, he suggests.

All the oils natural components are retained, suiting them for use in food supplements and naturally-based cosmetics. Sample batches have already been processed for big international cosmetics and pharmaceutical companies.

"The capital investment to date, including plant and equipment, a 7000t seed store and laboratory is in excess of £1m and is on going," points out Mr Lee.

"This is not a simple on-farm operation intended to cope with a few hundred tonnes of rapeseed. My aim is to set up a co-op of local farmers who can grow a range of oilseed crops and share the benefits of the resulting added value.

"We currently have capacity to crush 2000t a year. Within a 25-mile radius of here around 3000t of rapeseed, plus linseed and possibly also some borage, is produced each year. Some of it could be crushed here."

On-farm rape crushing is now a reality for Graham Lee (above) who farms near Tamworth, Staffs. His modified crusher (below) produces high grade oil (inset), with on-site lab work helping to target market outlets. Over £1m has been invested in Statfold Seed Oil Development.


&#8226 Small cold press produces top quality oil on-farm.

&#8226 2000t a year capacity.

&#8226 £1m invested.

&#8226 Oils suit food, industrial, cosmetic and pharmaceutical uses.

&#8226 Farm-based operation gives growers added value.

&#8226 Suitable oilseeds include linseed, sunflower, evening primrose, safflower, marigold, honesty, poppy, jojoba and coriander.