Farmers looking to diversify their business opportunities are being encouraged to consider the woodfuel market by the Forestry Commission.
More woodfuel boilers are being installed across the UK, which is increasing the demand for wood in the form of logs, pellets or chips.
Mark Prior, who is the Forestry Commission’s woodfuel officer for South West England, is working to develop its supply from forest to fuel, and he said:
“There are commercial opportunities for farmers all along the woodfuel supply chain, from managing woodlands, through to diversifying into turning some of the timber into a source of energy.
“More rural estates, farms and rural businesses are using woodfuel to heat their buildings, so there is a growing demand for locally-produced woodfuel. It provides a market for the lower quality produce, making the management of woodland more economically viable.
“Our regional woodfuel officers can advise you on the latest opportunities available locally, including training courses, grants for equipment and wood supply networks.”
Mark said farmer Tim Cox, who has a 700-acre mixed farm, near Exeter, was a good example of someone who was helping the local environment and its economy by joining the woodfuel supply chain.
The agricultural engineering business, set up 20 years ago, has expanded into woodfuel and now supplies the local National Trust property, Castle Drogo, with woodchips as a carbon-lean source of fuel.
“We’ve recently expanded into processing wood into fuel. It’s providing a sustainable business opportunity for us and will help both secure and create jobs.
“For example, tractor drivers are only needed on our local farms for about two months of the year but woodfuel supply is providing them with more work, over a longer period and in a sustainable environment.”
He explained that Tim Cox Engineering Services converted felled timber from the estate into the woodchips for the boiler. This involved taking the timber to be dried, chipped and stored before being delivering as fuel.
“Castle Drogo is currently using wood grown within a ten-mile radius, including an increasing amount of wood grown on the estate itself. Within two years, it is planned that the 600-acre estate will supply 100% of its own woodfuel.”
For more information about the FCE and support for woodfuel production and in England, Scotland and Wales go to: www.forestry.gov.uk/woodfuel