What is in this article?:
• The new refinery at the Bowersville site was designed to process canola grown in Georgia and the Carolinas, plus canola grown for a new plant that is scheduled to be built in northern Alabama.
• Establishing a market through processing, storage and refinery facilities was the first step in building a sustainable canola industry in the Southeast.
• The next challenge will be to develop enough acres to feed the two processing plants and the refinery.
ROBERT DAVIS, left, and Mike Garland check quality of canola oil at AgStrong’s Bowersville, Ga. plant.
AgStrong LLC, a company based in Bowersville, Ga., is providing exactly what South Carolina grain farmers need most to add canola to their crop rotation: a stable market and a fair price.
Located just across Lake Hartwell from some of South Carolina’s most productive farm land, the company took an interesting path, one that covered two continents, to provide a new cropping opportunity for farmers in South Carolina and across the Southeast.
They are well along in providing a good, sustainable winter crop for grain growers in northeast Georgia and throughout South Carolina
From the farmer’s perspective in the Southeast, canola is likely to produce about 80 percent of a wheat crop. Most Southeast growers shoot for an 80 bushel per acre wheat yield and grown on the same land with the same good production practices they would likely produce about 60 (50 pounds per bushel) bushels of canola per acre.
However, the canola is likely to be 70-80 percent more valuable than wheat — in most years, says Robert Davis, co-owner and president of AgStrong. At the end of the day, the grower should net $100-$150 more per acre with canola.
“We have had growers ask us about growing more canola, which would require a shorter rotation, and we say no. To be sustainable, growers must grow canola the right way and everything we know about growing the crop indicates in the Southeast a three-year rotation is a must,” Davis says.
Davis grew up in Brazil, the grandson of a missionary and son of a businessman, who made his professional career in Brazil. Davis was struck by the Brazilian’s penchant for turning agricultural crops, like sugarcane, into food and industrial-grade products.
He planned to study agricultural engineering at the University of Georgia and return to Brazil to build an agriculture-based business. The UGA degree and a couple of projects along the way worked out fine, but the return to Brazil just never worked out.
Davis decided to find the right business opportunity and establish an agriculture-based industry in the U.S. He encouraged, Mallory Davis, also an agricultural engineer who worked at the time with Nestle Foods, to join him in a pilot plant to produce food grade canola oil in northwest Georgia.
“We liked canola because it is a winter oilseed crop that can be grown successfully in the Southeast. Paul Raymer, University of Georgia professor and previous canola breeder for almost two decades, played a key role in the development of our business plan.