This past July, we paid a visit to Rigoni Farms in Pavilion. Steve Rigoni was a dairy farmer his whole life, and his father and his father's father before him. Not long ago, however, Steve made the switch to cash crops and began experimenting with alternative sources of energy. When we visited him in July, Steve showed us the tank in which he planned to burn switchgrass to heat the air to dry his corn crop—bushels of dried switchgrass would replace propane as the fuel source. He told us about how he manufactured the device and a little about his reasons. Please, be sure to go back and watch that video.
Well, we got a message from Steve last week asking us to come back out and see his invention in action. Long story short: it's a success. There are some things that need to be tweaked, as there are always things that need tweaking. But all in all, it works great. We put together another video to show you the burner and hear a little bit more from Steve about how it works. You can check that out below.
Before you watch it, however, let me say one thing. This video does not quite capture the marvel that I felt—and that I would hope some of you would feel—when I saw up close what Steve had built. This burner was made by hand, by Steve from whatever he could find to piece it together. He welded, he fanagled, he improvised. He manufactured a heat exchanger out of metal sheets and pipes. It's a thing of beauty, really. And that's before you consider that he now grows his own fuel and saves some 1,000 gallons of propane per day, every time he uses the dryer.