Four Years After Fukushima, Japan Looks For Answers

Posted by Lee Drever on Mar 13, 2015 11:46:00 AM

It has been four years since Japan was hit with the most powerful earthquake in its recorded history.
Tsunami Devastation
 Octaform customers, Hayashi Trout shared this shot of the devastation in Ongawa, Japan

In March of 2011, just 45 miles east of the Oshika Peninsula of Tohoku, a 9.0 magnitude undersea megathrust earthquake triggered a wave of destruction unlike anything in Japan's recorded memory. The quake and subsequent tsunami washed over coastal ports and towns, claiming over 18,000 lives, destroying over one million buildings and triggering a nuclear meltdown.

Four years later, Japan continues to deal with the aftermath of the disaster. The almost 83,000 residents living closest to the Fukushima nuclear plant were evacuated and radiation levels have kept them from returning home. Cleanup continues and researchers and analysts have now ruled local dairy, produce and seafood to be safe. 

Trout Grow-Out Tanks Are Stocked
  Hayashi Trout stocks the Octaform tanks at their park near Fukushima.

However, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, fears persist. As Wired reports, locals are slow to return to locally grown food even in the face of positive data.

Understandably, these fears are also affecting Japan's energy infrastructure. The Fukushima plant and all 48 of the nation's nuclear facilities have remained closed since the events of 2011, leaving utilities scrambling for energy. Forced to rely heavily on fossil fuels, like coal and natural gas, leaders have worked to find cleaner sources like solar. 

Driven by political and popular will, solar use in Japan has grown dramatically in the last two years. Clean and renewable, it represents an about-face from atomic energy but as the New York Times reports, this may be too good to be true. Utilities are now rejecting solar, complaining that it can't reliably support the demands of the country.

Many argue that the solution, to reducing Japan's now high greenhouse gas emissions, is actually a return to atomic power. The long term effects of the world's worst nuclear meltdown since Chernobyl remain to be seen but the reality is that there have been no fatalities directly linked to the Fukushima accident.

Japan's struggle is a microcosm of our global struggle. 'Answers' are few and far between and, as they are learning, 'solutions' are often trade-offs. 

These issues around sustainability, unfortunately, are easily politicized. It seems tough, however, to take issue with the Portland Cement Association's basic sentiment on the topic:

"We believe the most sustainable building is the one still standing.” David Shepherd, PCA

Each year in the United States alone, more than $35 billion in direct property loss is caused by natural disasters.  States and municipalities are seeking to adopt ordinances that require “green” or “sustainable” construction, yet as the PCA points out, they are overlooking disaster-resistance construction. 

There is now a call for making enhanced resilience of a building’s structure to natural and man-made disasters the first consideration of a green building.  Increased longevity and durability, combined with improved disaster resistance, results in the need for less energy and resources. This is not only the case for repair, removal, disposal and replacement of building materials and contents due to disasters, but for routine maintenance and operations as well. 

Concrete Trout Tanks Under Construction
 Formed and protected with Octaform, Hayashi's aquaculture tanks survived the disaster unscathed.

“Integration of durability and functional resilience into sustainability codes, standards and programs is long overdue,” David Shepherd, director of sustainability for the Portland Cement Association (PCA) said. “Some say the most sustainable structure is the one that isn’t built. We believe the most sustainable building is the one still standing.”

Functionally resilient buildings place less demand on resources and allow communities to provide vital services, even after a natural disaster.  For example, resilient construction allows businesses to continue operations, providing municipalities with a consistent tax base. Emergency recovery, the PCA reminds us, costs money. These funds are often reallocated from other community economic, societal and environmental initiative. The ripples can last for generations.

The question of sustainability is complicated and rife with misinformation, trade-offs and unforseen consequences but building better, it seems, will always be the right choice.



Topics: Aquaculture, Agriculture, Sustainability, Concrete, Concrete Construction, seismic, disaster, energy, Agri-Food, Renewable Energy

Spotlight On Canada's Newest Anaerobic Digester At Ag-Forum

Posted by Lee Drever on Jan 9, 2015 3:47:59 PM

Seabreeze Biogas Tank
CH-Four Biogas used Octaform to form the concrete tanks of the new facility at Seebreeze Farm.

BC's newest anaerobic digester is now turning poop into power... and you can sign up for a site visit!


Seabreeze Dairy Farm in Ladner is now combining agricultural and non-agricultural waste to harness and utilize greenhouse gasses that would otherwise vent into the atmosphere. Under FortisBC's renewable natural gas program, this biogas is purified on site and injected into their natural gas system. 

Biogas Tank Construction
Assembly of the Octaform tanks began in the Spring of 2013.

This project will be spotlighted at the end of this month at the 2015 Agri-Energy & Waste Management Forum (January 30-31) in Abbottsford, BC. This forum will open on January 30 with a session focused on Seabreeze Farm and conclude with a site visit on January 31. Register Here!


Introducing the 2015 Agri-energy & Waste Management Forum

Renewable energy and waste management technologies enable you to take advantage of underutilised resources, diversify income, manage waste, and reduce costs. The 2015 Agri-energy & Waste Management Forum will enable you to increase your understanding of renewable energy and waste management technologies relevant to your farm or agricultural operation.

Also, don’t miss your chance to see BC’s newest anaerobic digester. Sign-up to book your place on the site visit bus today! The site visit will include a free bbq lunch, coffee and tea. Buses will leave from in front of TradeX (1190 Cornell St, Abbotsford). The site visit costs only $20.00!

Concrete Biogas Tank
The Agri-Energy & Waste Management Forum will provide an opportunity to hear from the technology providers and contractors that worked together to build the new Seabreeze digester. 

Anaerobic Digestion Session 1: Seabreeze Farms
January 30, 9:30am - 11:00am

Building an anaerobic digester involves many different technologies and local contractors. Through rapid-fire presentations, learn about some of the technologies and contractors that have contributed to Seabreeze Farm’s anaerobic digester in Delta. These presentations will provide useful background information for the Seabreeze Farm site visit on January 31st.

Chair: David Melnychuk (Agricultural Consultant, Langley).

  • Claire Allen (Ch-Four Biogas, Vancouver);
  • Stuart Burnside (Dual Mechanical, Surrey);
  • Brandon Kloot (Kloot Construction, Chilliwack);
  • Kerry Doyle (KPD Consulting, Abbotsford); and
  • David Richardson (Octaform, Vancouver).

For more program details and to register, click here.

Learn More About Octaform Biogas Tanks

Topics: Agriculture, Biogas, Biomethane, finished concrete forms, Dairy, CHFour, Concrete Tanks

Woody Harrelson Is Turning Waste Into Paper

Posted by Lee Drever on Dec 6, 2013 11:52:00 AM

Woody Harrelson
Woody Harrelson is a co-counder of a company producing high quality paper from left over wheat straw.

With the proliferation of e-readers, tablets and smartphones it certainly feels like the world is printing less but are we? 

The paper industry will tell you that, despite downward trends in certain categories, the global consumption of paper products is actually rising. Whether it is growing or not, our global appetite for paper products is still massive with over 400 million metric tonnes (3 billion trees worth) of paper consumed annually.

The numbers are staggering and with 1.6 billion people around the planet depending directly on natural rainforests food, clothing and shelter, can we continue to cut down 3 billion trees per year for paper?

Actor and activist, Woody Harrelson is the co-founder of a company that hopes to reduce this impact on the planet by producing high quality paper from straw left over from the production of wheat. Step Forward Paper, made with 80 per cent wheat straw, is the first paper of its kind to hit shelves in North America. 

Two boxes saves one tree:

“Almost half the world’s forests have been cut for paper products,” said Harrelson, “Step Forward Paper is great for our forests, our farmers and our future.”

Harrelson is partners with entrepreneur, Jeff Golfman and former Manitoba finance minister, Clayton Manness in this project that after 15 years of research and development was made available through Staples stores (and online) across Canada and the United States last summer. 

Step Forward Paper buys wheat waste from farmers after it is harvested for food, providing the farmers with an extra diversified income. 

The paper is currently made in India from straw sourced nearby but the long-term goal for the team is to build a "state-of-the-art, off-the-grid, eco pulp and paper mill" in North America.

Step Forward Paper is an 8.5" X 11", 80% tree-free paper sheet made from wheat straw waste and bleached using an Elemental Chlorine-Free sequence (ECF). The paper is FSC certified by the Rainforest Alliance. It 
is currently available in North America exclusively from Staples.

DISCLOSURE: Octaform President, David Richardson is a member of the board of directors for Prairie Paper, manufacturers of Step Forward Paper.

Topics: Agriculture, Sustainability

8 Photos From A State-Of-The-Art Egg Production Facility

Posted by Lee Drever on Oct 25, 2013 2:24:00 PM

We dropped by Paragon Farms this week to check out the progress they've made on their newly rennovated poultry operation. They lined the walls and ceiling of their egg production facility with our Quick Liner wall & ceiling panels

Here are some photos:

Egg Production Facility

Quick Liner wall & ceiling panels fasten to your structure and instantly transform dark and dingy walls into a clean and bright environment that is resistant to corrosion, fade and dirt.

Egg Production Facility

Extruded from food-grade PVC, Quick Liner can be used in food processing facilities, clean rooms and anywhere that biosecurity is important.

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PVC is easy to clean and will not support the growth of mold so you can stop being concerned about the health of your walls and think only about the health of your livestock.

Wall Liner In Cold Storage

Quick Liner meets all FDA requirements for food safety and is listed as an approved construction material by the CFIA.

Egg Production Facility

Paragon lined their halls and offices with Quick Liner as well. The panels are easy to clean but also help to create a bright and welcoming work environment.

Egg Production Facility

The egg conveyer and sorting system mounted easily through the PVC panels.

Egg Production Facility

The crew also utilized the full array of Quick Liner trim components. These finishing pieces look great but more importantly, they ensure that there are no corners for moisture or contaminants to accumulate in.

Egg Production Facility
Quick Liner comes in a time-saving 18" width and is stocked and ready to ship from locations across North America.

To get a quote, click here:


Topics: Agriculture, Wall & Ceiling Panel, Food Processing, Quick Liner, Poultry, Egg Production

Making an 'Impact' with Bioenergy

Posted by Lee Drever on Oct 4, 2013 9:49:00 AM

Impact Bioenergy AD Facility
 Facility rendering of an Impact Bioenergy anaerobic digestion system.

Industry Profile: 
JAN ALLEN, Impact Bioenergy  

Jan Allen, Impact Bioenergy

Jan Allen has been involved in design, construction, and operation of organics facilities since 1989, at Cedar Grove Composting, CH2M HILL, Concept Kinetics, and Harvest Power.

Jan is president of IMPACT BIOENERGY. Formed this year, they intend to empower communities with the best bio-conversion technologies and services available to recycle organic materials into renewable energy and soil products.

He sat down with Octaform this week to talk anaerobic digestion and some of the hurdles it faces in North America.


How did you get into biogas?

My first experience was at Purdue University – we were allowed to do an undergraduate thesis – I chose methane potential via pig waste biogas. My second experience was designing mechanical piping for wastewater digesters. The concept has always been at the forefront of my engineering ideas but it has not always been economically feasible.

The economics have shifted into a much more favorable position. This is partly due to rising costs for alternatives like long distance disposal or recycling at distant composting facilities. It is also partly due to more domestic technology choices that don’t have to be imported from Europe.


A growing number of organizations and cities are aiming for zero waste as a goal. How does anaerobic digestion help accomplish this?

Anaerobic digestion is ideally suited to wet, high-calorie food wastes. These are precisely the same feedstocks that cause operational challenges for composting operations – too much water, not enough pore space, and too much oxygen demand at the beginning of the process. So for multifamily organics and commercial organics especially anaerobic digestion can extract energy and reduce the odour potential of the remaining digestate that goes to composting. College campuses are a great case study in both zero waste and self-generation of energy.

Many campuses and communities have taken the bolder step to both move past 50% diversion and to develop micro-grid power stations on-campus. Even if recycling goals are achieved they don’t account for the environmental impact of exporting waste. Today there are opportunities to avoid the fuel use for hauling and offsite disposal of these materials by creating energy locally from waste streams that would otherwise be wasted.

Converting organic materials into energy and soil on-campus is not only possible, it is more cost-effective and sustainable. With much of the district power and heating infrastructure built into their initial construction, college campuses across North America are moving to micro grid power systems. 

For example UC San Diego's 42-megawatt micro grid has a master controller and optimization system and uses different generator sources - photovoltaic solar panels, fuel cells, and natural gas generators - that enable it to cover more than 90 percent of the power requirement at the 1,200-acre campus. The micro grid saves the university some $800,000 a month in energy costs.

Biogas E-Book

 Free Download 

Compared to Europe, North America has been slow to adopt biogas as a means of energy generation. What factors are holding back growth in North America?

In North America we generally operate on a market-driven system where lowest cost is overwhelmingly the decision criteria. In Europe the decision criteria was more about EU directives to reduce landfilling and produce renewable energy. These were policies adopted by counties and the European Union.

Renewable energy is tariff-driven in Europe where biomethane power is worth three times as much per kWh ($0.20/kWh in EU vs. $0.07/kWh in US). There are a number of variations on this concept including low-technology need for cooking and lighting fuel - used mainly Asia, India, and Africa; and environmental-control used mainly in North America for wastewater facilities.

The good news is that the supply chain and design/build industry for biogas is starting to grow in North America. That will drive down capital cost. We are still struggling with weak central policy and low energy tariffs but those may be the next barriers to address.


What areas of North America do you foresee growing in AD?

Those areas where there are high waste disposal costs or high electricity prices.


Over the last decade, Cow Power programs in Vermont and BC have attempted to help biogas become economically feasible. Do you believe that AD in North America can be feasible without subsidies or programs?

Yes if the current economics show high waste disposal costs or high electricity prices. It is really site-specific so each project has a unique economic situation. We created two self-evaluation models to help customers evaluate their specific economics (see here). In these tools there is a ‘project specifics’ tab to help collect the data to make a wise decision.


What services does Impact Bioenergy provide? How is Impact Bioenergy different from other firms involved in biogas?

IMPACT BIOENERGY was launched in Seattle in July 2013. We have created a unique business model focused on selling small-scale organic waste energy waste solutions to communities of 5,000 to 50,000 people for the production of renewable energy and valuable, carbon-rich by-products. Our products are pre-fabricated, modular, quickly deployed, and here in Pacific Northwest.

The centerpiece of our game-changing business model is the IMPACT BIOENERGY TECHNOLOGY SUITE: three separate but complementary organics recycling technology modules designed to operate independently or together. 


• Biomethane production via anaerobic digestion (AD)
• Soil and heat production via composting
• Charcoal, biochar, syngas, and heat production via gasification

The trends and convergence of the global issues we can address underscores the relevancy and timeliness of this offering. Every day, each resident in campus and urban area sends two pounds of valuable organic material to disposal.

IMPACT BIOENERGY is different than other technology providers because it focuses on small scale, standardized, simple, pre-fabricated assemblies to drive down the capital cost of renewable energy systems. Delivery and installation can be accomplished in about 6 months vs. typical concept-to-startup development cycles that require 2-4 years in the industry today. Operating costs are low with near zero inputs of chemicals and consumable materials.

The ultimate success of Impact Bioenergy’s plan lies in our ability to deliver systems that will create “communities” from our customers who enjoy information sharing in the areas of purchasing, operations, and marketing.

Impact Bioenergy

have professionals located on the West Coast and East Coast, and in the United States and Canada. The corporate home town is Seattle, Washington

Topics: Agriculture, Anaerobic Digestion, Sustainability, Biogas, Industry Profile, Bioenergy

Canada's Outdoor Farm Show

Posted by Thomas Belsheim on Sep 6, 2013 3:47:00 PM

Peter aka anemoneprojectors
photocredit: Peter aka anemoneprojectors

Where Canada's Farmers Meet

We are heading Woodstock, Ontario for Canada's Outdoor Farmshow.

Celebrating its 20th year in existence, Canada's Outdoor Farm Show is the largest outdoor agricultural show in the country. It offers  "one stop shopping" for farmers and highlights the most innovative and technologically advanced agr
icultural products and services available.
feature 20thAnniversary
Woodstock, Ontario
September 10-12
We will be there, showcasing our patented watertight PVC Wall Forming System and our newest product, Quick Liner.
Are you going to be there? Drop by and say hi to Robert in booth AB-7.

Topics: Agriculture, barns, Quick Liner

Quality or Quantity - Can Agriculture Have Both?

Posted by Thomas Belsheim on Aug 9, 2013 3:06:00 PM

Science, without question, has helped farmers to dramatically increase their crop yields over the last century. Some argue, however, that this has come with significant decline in quality. California-based Water Right Technologies (WRT) is hoping to change this.

 corn by Alternative Energy resized 600

Photocredit: Alternative Energy 

With a few process improvements, Water Right Technologies aims to enhance crop yield and quality.

As mentioned in a recent article by the Worldwatch Institute, today's farmer can grow two to three times as much food as they could on the same plot of land 50 years ago. While crop yields have increased, nutritional quality doesn't appear to have followed suit. 

In Still No Free Lunch, a report by Washington State University, researchers found that wheat cultivars grown between 1842 and 2003 had an "11% decline in iron content, a 16 percent decline in copper, a 25 percent decline in zinc and a 50 percent decline in selenium." Chemical inputs have drastically increased the yield of farming over the past 5 decades, while at the same time, robbing produce of its essential nutrients. 

With an ever-increasing demand for food, producing the highest possible yields has become central to conventional agriculture. Many farmers, struggling to keep up, have not been eager to change their crop management practices. This is where WRT hopes to come in. 

Water Right Technology aids farmers in rebuilding the quality of their soil. As the fundamental aspect of healthy crop growth, soil quality is most negatively affected by regimented chemical inputs. WRT's process begins with a full-spectrum analysis of the current state of soil conducted on the farm in question. The process goes even further by including samples of the water that is being used for irrigation, which is then mixed with collected soil samples. Without realizing, a farmer may conduct their own soil testing but not account for salts or bicarbonates that are present in the irrigation water being used. Crop management programs are then customized based off of the acquired results, and are fitted to improve upon preexisting practices. WRT utilizes the best natural soil amendment products on the market to restore nutrients and microbial communities into the earth. 

Backed by more than 40 years of applied agriculture experience WRT has tested many natural soil amendment products, and the two companies they distribute for deliver the most impressive and consistent results when used together. Baicor and Bio S.I. Technology manufacture an extensive line of organic soil amendments to meet the needs of any farmer, and WRT will educate their clients specifically on how each should be used. There have even been cases where farmers have experienced considerably better yields after the complete replacement of chemical inputs with these two brands, and proper implementation. WRT is working to change the way farmers think about producing quality over quantity.

Renew And Protect Your Barn Walls. Click Here To Find Out How!

Topics: Agriculture, Sustainability

New Funding to Help Ontario Agri-Food

Posted by Thomas Belsheim on Jul 5, 2013 3:03:00 PM

Dairy Cow

A new funding package will contribute 417 million to Ontario's agri-food industry. 

The governments of Canada and Ontario are working to help Ontario’s agri-food industry grow profits, expand markets and manage risk with the launch of a series of funding campaigns. The program, titled “Growing Forward 2”, is comprised of three separate funding initiates; Agriinnovation, AgriMarketing and AgriCompetitiveness.

The Agriinovation program is aimed at supporting new ideas, technology and transfer of knowledge within the food sector, with the goal of increasing the successful commercialization or adoption of agriculture, agri-food and agri-based innovations. Both the AgriCompetitiveness and AgriMarketing programs aim to increase the competitiveness of Canada’s agri-food sector by helping companies adapt to the volatile markets and emerging global and domestic opportunities. In total, the three separate campaigns under the Growing Forward Campaign will provide 417 million dollars in funding to the agriculture and food industry.

 “Agriculture is a major contributor to a healthy economy in Ontario and across Canada. These Growing 2 Forward programs will ensure that Ontario farmers and food processors have the tools they need to remain competitive and innovative in new existing markets” said Gerry Ritz, Minister, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada

Click Here To Protect Your Barn Walls From Corrosion, Grime and Rot

Launched on June 26th, funding is now available that will aid Ontario farmers and food processors in identifying strategic priorities, expanding markets, and managing risks.

The program is expected to significantly benefit the food and beverage industry in Ontario. “This is exactly what’s needed for food and beverage processors to push ahead on innovative projects, new product development, .. workforce training and productivity advances,” said Steve Peters, director of the Alliance of Ontario Food Processors.

The support will help small-to-medium sized processors that comprise more than 90 per cent of the 3,000 processor businesses in Ontario.

Ontario’s agri-food industry contributes more than $34 billion to the Ontario’s gross domestic product and provides more than 710,000 jobs. 



Topics: Agriculture, Food Processing, Quick Liner

Wall & Ceiling Panel Installation (Photos)

Posted by Lee Drever on Jun 28, 2013 4:06:00 PM

A local poultry processor recently selected Quick Liner for its facility upgrade. They chose our 18" wide panel (a full 6" wider than most in the industry) to cut installation times. 

Here are a few photos of the install in progress; we will post more as we get them!

PVC Wall & Ceiling Panels

DSC 0132

PVC Panels Fasten to Wall

DSC 0146

Ceiling Panel Being Installed
To learn more about Quick Liner go here.

Topics: Agriculture, Wall & Ceiling Panel, Quick Liner

Onsite with Octaform: Millbrook Biogas Project

Posted by Thomas Belsheim on Jun 13, 2013 4:56:00 PM

Welcome to a new segment titled "Onsite with Octaform". This segment will highlight the ability of Octaform to solve its customer’s most difficult problems. 

Bringing biogas technology to Canada: CCS-agriKomp 


Biogas Tank Ontario
Octaform worked with CCS-Agrikomp, a joint venture between a Canadian based Carbon Control Systems and German based AgriKomp, to supply the forming system to build an Anaerobic Digester in Millbrook, Ontario.

Traditional construction methods for biogas rely on an unprotected concrete tank with an epoxy coating to cover the gasline. CCS-Agrikomp knew this construction method was insufficient for the long term, as A.D. chemicals degrade the structural integrity of concrete overtime. CCS-Agrikomp approached Octaform because they wanted to build a concrete based digester and needed a protective lining that would stand the test of time. 

Project Overview

Build Date: August 2010

Contractor: CCS-agriKomp

Location: Ontario, Canada

Project: 100 kilowatt Anaerobic Digestion System and generator house

Time of Construction:  24 days

Size:  ID: 131 ft  H: 19.7 ft

Wall Area: 7,426 SqFt 

The watertight forms provided the protective barrier between the concrete and the feedstock. This eliminated the ongoing need to epoxy coat a steel or concrete tank

In addition, CCS-AgriKomp chose to build with the Octaform System because of the ease of assembly.

Octaform panels don’t require special trades to assemble and that was a huge cost savings to us.”  - Chris Ferguson.  

The monolithic design of the
Octaform system significantly reduces construction timeframes. 

CCS February 27,2012 39The digester and generator house were built within 4 weeks by the staff of CCS-agriKomp under the direction of Octaform’s Field Services Technician. Today CCS-agriKomp offers farmers plant tours, and turnkey services that include the consulting, planning, construction and commissioning services.




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Topics: Agriculture, Biogas, tanks, Construction