The Economic Possibilities in Biomass Harvesting

By Luke Geiver | January 10, 2013

The opportunity for custom harvesting operations of agriculture residue-based biomass and purpose grown energy crops intended for bioenergy projects is becoming a reality. In the February issue of the magazine, we’ve profiled a few folks living in corn country that are making a living off of feedstock harvesting and transport for an advanced biofuel facility. But the opportunity doesn’t just exist for the people mentioned in the story. An emerging cellulosic sugar provider based out of Rochester, N.Y. helps to show why.

Sweetwater Energy Inc., the New York company, has signed with Ace Ethanol of Stanley, Wis., to build a production facility near the ethanol plant that is feedstock flexible. Sweetwater will provide the facility with sugars suitable for ethanol production and to do that, they need feedstock. To get the feedstock, the company intends to hire custom harvesters. And, Arunas Chesonis, CEO of the company, says Sweetwater isn’t stopping there.

Over the next three years, the company intends to partake in 25 more facilities at an average of 8 new signings per year. Most of the locations will be in North America and each will generate $7 million to $9 million per year. That might sound like an enormous challenge, but Chesonis and his team have an accomplished background that may prove why their intentions will happen.

Before starting Sweetwater, Chesonis helped build a 5,000 employee, $1 billion in sales communications service. Before joining the same executive team that ran the communications company that now comprises the staff of Sweetwater, he was the lead angel investor in the cellulosic sugar firm. And just this week, Sweetwater announced that it has purchased its first pretreatment equipment from Denmark’s Biogasol ApS to use at the Wisconsin facility.