The agricultural sector has always been on the cutting edge of new technology, looking for ways to save energy and money while increasing production.
Now, Oxford County’s farming community can lay claim to having the largest solar-powered egg-laying farm in Canada.
Burnbrae Farms officially opened its solar-powered farm Tuesday on Patullo Avenue in Norwich Township.
Margaret Hudson, the president of Burnbrae, said the company began the project as a way to be more energy efficient while reducing emissions.
“We wanted to try it with this farm, but we needed an energy solution for this region. Now we’ve done it successfully and managed through the challenges, we’ll be looking at other farms and operations,” she said.
The farm consists of a starter pullet barn, one free-run layer barn and two free-range layer barns. The electricity generated from the solar panels also powers the neighbouring Burnbrae farm, which has about 185,000 birds, John Heuthorst, director of Burnbrae’s poultry operations, said.
Heuthorst said each of the three main barns has about 35,000 Lohmann brown chickens.
He said the birds are moved to the barn at about 19 weeks of age after being born together. The chickens hit peak egg laying at about 24 weeks old, producing 320 to 330 eggs per bird during the year for about a 96 per cent production rate, Heuthorst said.
The birds are able to walk outside the barns in fenced-off areas but are kept inside at night.
“They have the freedom to move around wherever they want,” Heuthorst said.
The barns use high-efficiency motors, lighting and ventilation systems to use as little power as possible. The farm also has a backup generator to ensure that power is always available.
Hudson said the majority of the project was self-funded by Burnbrae and is the company’s first solar operation in Oxford. The company is attempting to reduce its greenhouse emissions by five per cent by 2020.
Burnbrae Farms is a family-owned company that’s been producing eggs for more than 75 years and now operates in five provinces.
Oxford MPP Ernie Hardeman said the farm is another example of the local agricultural sector being committed to up-to-date technologies.
“This farm opening is such an important milestone for the Oxford County community and is another example of our commitment to sustainable farming practices within the region,” Hardeman, the province’s agricultural minister, said.
Adam Poll, the project manager for Ruby360, the Tavistock-based company that installed the solar panels, said the roughly 1,500 panels generate 500 kilowatts of solar power.
He said the lithium ion batteries can store about 770 kilowatts hours of power – about 24 hours of stored electricity.Click here to see more...