Seneca BioEnergy is Growing into a Green Leader

Looking ahead to ongoing operations in 2010,Seneca BioEnergy, LLC is growing into the green energy company it plans to be. Seneca BioEnergy recently completed a pilot project in the processing of grape waste pomace and production of grape seed oil, purchased some equipment and hired three employees, all in recent months. The company also has started a pilot program at its AgBio facility at the former Seneca Army Depot in Romulus that will produce soybean oil and soybean meal, and will refine the soy oil into biodiesel for sale as a local biofuel. By the end of this year we will be making small quantities of biodiesel daily, said Seneca BioEnergy CEO Michael Coia. We need to demonstrate tothe agricultural community that we can walk before we run and that partnering with us will yield regional rewards. The company has purchased four small-scale soybean presses and plans to produce about 150 gallons per day of biodiesel in the pilot program, Coiasaid. Regional Access Inc., an Ithaca-based purveyor of specialty and natural foods, plans to buy the biodiesel and use it to power its vehicles, he said. The biodiesel also will fuel a diesel power generator to locally produce the electricity at Seneca BioEnergy¹s facility. Seneca Bio recently named Daren Jensen of Candor, Tioga County, as agricultural manager. Jensen will be the liaison between farmers in the region and the company¹s complex along Route 96 at the former depot. The company is converting and winterizing two former depot buildings for the processing of soybeans and canola. This fall, the company took in grape waste pomace from four different grape varieties at three area wineries to separate the seeds for production of thefirst Finger Lakes grape seed oil to be marketed regionally. Pomace is the solid remains of grapes after they are pressed to make wine. Pomace containsthe skins, pulp, seeds and stems of the fruit, and significant research is ongoing worldwide on the valuable nutritional nature of grape-derivedproducts. During the eight-week pilot project from this harvest season, the company separated the seeds from the pomace of four varieties ­ Concord, Catawba,Niagara and Riesling and dried them to produce grape seed oil. pomace materials, grape see oil and grape seed meal are now being analyzed by Dr.Olga Padilla-Zakour of the Food Venture Center at the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva. Dr. Padilla-Zakour is testing potential products from the four different varieties along with various blends of them, Coia said. The aim is to determine which grape or combination of grapes would produce the best grape seed oil. (Concord and Catawba are red grapes; Niagara-Diamond and Riesling are white.) In addition, the potential high-value products that can be made from grape pomace and the seed meal will be evaluated to determine the commercial applications of our operations in 2010, Coia said. Coia sees much promise in processing pomace into numerous products, as the company moves from planning to production. He noted that more than 20wineries in the region have expressed interest in selling a local brand of grape seed oil in their tasting rooms. The oil is seen as a healthful product that is used in cooking and salads and has many other applications. We will take what we learned in the fall (about production) and want to go commercial in 2010,² he said. An affiliated company, Finger Lakes Natural Oils, LLC, is already working on a logo and label for the grape seed oil and other products to be ramped outin the Spring 2010. Jensen, an investor in the company, is the third employee added in recent months at Seneca BioEnergy. The company recently named operations and facilities managers and Coia said that projections call for eventually creating more than 100 jobs. In the midst of this activity, Coia said the company is looking for investors and partners in its operations, and is seeking to raise about $200,000 in the short term to address capital equipment expansion andcommercial operations in grape seed oil, soy oil and biodiesel production in 2010. He said Seneca Bio¹s business plan envisions annual revenues of morethan $2.5 million and a total of 10 employees over the next two years. When its operations are completely under way, Seneca BioEnergy¹s products will include soybean and canola oil, agricultural meal, grape seed oil,biodiesel and biomass, vineyard waste management and manufactured soils. These activities will be performed at its renovated site, the Seneca AgBioGreen Energy Complex, where they are attracting other agribusiness and green energy companies into the 55-acre industrial site with 400,000 square feetof warehouse space. Seneca BioEnergy¹s corporate office is in the Cornell Agriculture and Food Technology Park at 500 Technology Farm Drive ­ Suite 12, Geneva, N.Y. 14456.Coia can be reached by phone at (215) 284-6582, or by e-mail at [email protected].

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