KANIVA farmer Steven Hobbs is exploring alternative substances to firewood.
The Nuffield scholar has been compressing agricultural biowaste and meel into slow-burning fire logs.
Mr Hobbs said he got the idea after a trip to the UK a few years ago.
“I built the machine about three years ago and have been doing long-term trials ever since,” he said.
Mr Hobbs said he had been working to get the right consistency for the logs.
“It was a lot of trial and error at first,” he said.
“I’ve been working on getting the process a bit more streamlined but I’m happy with it now.
“I’m just about at the point where I can start producing a lot more.
“I’m still a long way from a commercial operation, but there is starting to be an increase in demand.
“The ideal situation would be to produce about 15 to 20 tonnes and look at hiring someone for about six weeks to help make them.
“Then leave the logs in a shipping container, ready to sell at winter.
“They harden up over time so the longer you leave them the better they become.
Mr Hobbs said he was looking for a product he could make that had a niche market but could turn over a high profit.
That’s when he came across the logs, which are more common in the UK.
“I worked for a while on biogas but the rigmarole involved in the energy grid made it too technically difficult and expensive,” he said.
Mr Hobbs said he could make about 100 logs an hour.
He said the logs could burn for about eight to 10 hours and produced less ash and firewood.
“Firewood produces about 15 to 20 per cent ash, these produce on two to five per cent ash,” he said.
“It’s because they are so dense.
“They produce more energy and burn hot and bright.”
Mr Hobbs has been selling his logs to neighbours and at the Kaniva community shop for $13 a bag.
“They are more expensive, but they last longer,” he said.
Mr Hobbs said the best way to use the logs was mixing them with ordinary firewood.
“The best way to use the logs, is to start your fire with firewood and then once it’s hot, put one of these logs on it,” he said.
“The product is great for people looking for an alternative to firewood, because firewood is getting more difficult to get.”
Mr Hobbs said he had had interest from customers in Ballarat and Adelaide.
“People like the environmental aspect of it too, because it’s made all from agriculture waste,” he said.
Mr Hobbs said the downsides of the logs were that they had to be kept dry and they attracted mice.
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