The Cellulosic Sugar Producers Co-operative (CSPC) has ceased to exist, though without financial losses for investors.
The farmer-owned cooperative was originally formed to develop new processing opportunities for crop residues like corn stover and wheat straw. One of the main opportunities for crop biomass derived from a once-proposed sugar refinery in Sarnia, to be constructed by Comet Bio.
Why it matters: Markets for crop residues remain underdeveloped in Ontario, but producer interest in new opportunities – and structures to respond to them – remain.
The refinery never materialized, however, and other potential market outlets have thus far proven elusive.
All investments returned
There were 118 growers signed on to the project, committing 30,000 acres in total. Dave Park, a farmer and former president of CSPC, says the capital and acreage committed by members was more than enough to “make it work” if the refinery was indeed built. But with no shovels in the ground, CSPC investments were not released for the project.
Rather than continuing to incur operational expenses by keeping the co-operative running as an organization, members decided to take a step back.
“The market just wasn’t as valorized for cellulosic fibre and other products. They were just a little short on some of the financing,” says Park.
“We didn’t want to continue without an actual plan to invest. The idea was, let’s close it down before we start losing any money.”
In doing so, all investments were returned to participating members in full, including membership shares.
Future opportunities more accessible
In a press release, the co-operative organization indicates it “strongly values” all community support during the initiative. It also says the knowledge generated from the endeavor will be retained by Bioindustrial Innovations Canada – the overarching non-profit agency working with CSPC to develop its markets.
In practice, Park says retaining knowledge and experience means future market opportunities for agricultural biomass can be approached more effectively, and efficiently.
“If there was another project to come along the opportunity would be better,” he says.