By Matt McIntosh
UofG's Complimentary Energy Decision Support Tool (CEDST)
By Matt McIntosh
Like other Canadian industries, the agricultural sector is increasingly focused on adopting “green” practices and technologies to create a more sustainable business environment. However, turning an entire operation into an efficient, productive, environmentally friendly machine involves a significant amount of time, capital and expertise.
Now, researchers at the University of Guelph’s School of Engineering have embarked on an ambitious project that could help many farmers “go green” without breaking the bank.
Partnering with the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) and the Poultry Industry Council, Prof. Bill Van Heyst, along with graduate students Stephanie Shaw and Dan Roth, are creating a free computer program they call a Complimentary Energy Decision Support Tool (CEDST) to aid farmers in making more environmentally sound decisions.
More specifically, the software’s goal is to provide easy, immediate access to knowledge about sustainable technologies that are available to farmers, the associated costs, and what technology is best suited to each individual operation.
“We want this program to allow farmers to better direct their capital towards more beneficial green investments, and encourage others to actively pursue environmentally friendly projects,” says Shaw. “A free, one-stop educational tool for this kind of thing will definitely help.”
CEDST works as a multi-fold calculator. By entering information such as location, the size and type of structures present, and what commodities are being farmed, CEDST compiles potential projects designed to green up the operation. It then provides a list of potential costs associated with those options, as well as the prospective amount the farmer might save by investing in them.
For example, whether producers want to generate their own power via a windmill or solar panels, or simply save a little on heating through better insulation, they can easily compare the price tag, return on investment period and eventual cheque size of all possible options.
In its calculations, CEDST takes into account factors such as current material costs, installation and availability of government support for the technology in question.
Ideally, CEDST could also be marketed as a tool for use by non-farmers. The same principles that apply to agriculture for green technology can be applied to other industries as well, and potentially, even homeowners.
“Although the program is being designed specifically with farmers in mind, it could easily be adopted by other groups as a means to save money and the environment,” says Shaw. “After all, farmers are not the only ones who could stand to benefit from going green.”
Matt McIntosh is a student writer with the Students Promoting Academic Research Knowledge (SPARK) program at the University of Guelph