Jon Satz pushing "start"

Jon Satz pushing "start" on the BB500 at Wood's Market Garden for the first time last Sunday, March 4.

Jon Satz pushed the start button on Wood’s Market Garden’s BB500 for the first time last Sunday.

The BB500 is the largest of the multi-fuel biomass boilers offered by LEI Products under the BioBurner brand.  Scott Laskowski of LEI Products was on-site to walk through the startup.  After a few finishing touches on the electrical end of things, the boiler was humming along and making hot water.

Jon plans to use this boiler to heat two 40′x144′ double poly greenhouses used for a variety of vegetable crops during the year.  The installation will include both air and ground heating giving the grower the flexibility to adjust how the crops and the environment are heated and how moisture is controlled.

BB500 headhouse

The red headhouse on the left side is where the boiler is located. Hot water is passed to the second house underground via insulated PEX tubing.

The BB500 will be run on high quality wood pellets this year while Jon finishes the rest of the system installation and gets familiar with the operation of the boiler.  But the BB500 is highly versatile when it comes to fuel.  There are numerous videos at the BioBurner website showing the units burning all sorts of biomass fuels.  LEI Products has included advanced instrumentation and controls not normally included in boilers of this size in order to maintain strong, clean, and highly efficient combustion.  This allows the user to get the most out of their fuel and minimized emissions including particulates & smoke.

A new version of the Vermont Oilseed Cost and Profit Calculator is available for download.  This new version includes corrections to cost allocation between meal and oil, once the seed is pressed.  Special thanks to Dr. Tom Cox at the University of Winsconsin-Madison for his intense use and careful review of the calculator which highlighted several other necessary corrections incorporated in v 1.4.

I was honored to speak at the 2011 Northeast Hops Alliance annual conference at Brown’s Brewing Co. Revolution Room in Troy, NY on Nov 5. The room and balcony were packed to capacity with brewers, growers and all around hop and beer enthusiasts. A full day of presentations demonstrated interest in the rebirth of this crop in the Northeast and its eventual promise.


  • Pest & Weed Management
  • Land Preparation and Fertility
  • Trellis System Installation
  • Hop Varieties
  • Harvesting, Drying, and Pelletizing
  • Irrigation
  • Financials
  • Farm Brewery Legislation
  • Grower & Brewer Panel
  • Annual NeHA meeting
  • Ordering rhizomes and coir

  • Dr. David Gent, USDA Ag Research Service, Oregon
  • Dr. Shaun Townsend, Oregon State University
  • Dr. Heather Darby, University of Vermont Extension
  • Chris Callahan, Callahan Engineering
  • Steve Miller, Cornell Coop Extension, Madison County
  • Becca Jablonski, Cornell University
  • Growers and Brewers Panel

I presented on the UVM Mobile Hop Picker and my presentation can be downloaded here.

R&D 100 Awardee


Back in the middle of the Summer, I received an email from a client saying we had won an award.  But I couldn’t say much about it until now.  I’ve been working with Bill Smith and Al Meyer at Infinity Fuel Cell & Hydrogen since they were a two person company.  In fact, they were my first client when I started Callahan Engineering. The company has grown since then, and being a recipient of a 2011 R&D 100 Award recognizes a significant technology development that we have been working on with the NASA Glenn Research Center and Qinetiq North America.

A fuel cell is a device that converts flowing hydrogen (or a hydrogen rich stream) and flowing oxygen (or an oxygen rich stream like air) to produce electricity without combustion.  The specific innovation that Infinity has developed reduces the need for moving parts like pumps and blowers and prevents the need for venting the fuel cell.  This increases efficiency of the device and NASA likes efficiency when it comes to the power sources for their space missions.

NASA Glenn NFT Fuel Cell

About the R&D 100 Awards
From the R&D Magazine website – “The Awards, widely recognized as the “Oscars of Innovation”, identifies and celebrates the top high technology products of the year. Sophisticated testing equipment, innovative new materials, chemistry breakthroughs, biomedical products, consumer items, high-energy physics: the R&D 100 Awards spans industry, academia, and government-sponsored research.”

Mobile Hops Picker


UPDATE, April 20, 2012:  The design documents are now available on the UVM Extension NW Crops and Soil Team website. You will have to register to gain access to the documents. We require this so that we can better track the level of interest in the work and also so that we can communicate future updates. Although the documents are free to download some folks have asked how they can contribute to the development of them and other related projects. The best way is to make a donation to UVM Extension.

Earlier this year I was asked to be involved in the design of a mobile hops picker by Dr. Heather Darby of University of Vermont Extension.  The intent of the project was to develop a hops picker that could be used by multiple growers in the Northeast.  Typically, hops are grown in vast centralized yards and most operations are large enough to support their own hop picker (a large, expensive machine/building that requires a great deal of maintenance and is only used for about 4-6 weeks per year).

There is a resurgence of interest in growing hops in the Northeast as consumers, and brewers seek local ingredients with predictably unique characteristics that can distinguish their beers.  There is also a desire to grow a broader variety of hops in a more distributed and integrated way to avoid common diseases that have resulted in poor yields recently among the major hop producing areas.

I was very fortunate to have a great design team on this project.  Roger Rainville (Borderview Farm – Alburgh, VT), Gene L’Etoile (Four Star Farm – Northfield, MA), Paul Hendler (Shaftsbury, VT), Mark Magiera (Bobcat Cafe - Bristol, VT), Dr. Heather Darby (UVM Extension), Rosalie Madden (UVM Extension), Dave Bister (Triangle Metal Fab – Milton, VT).  And we benefited from technical support from several key vendors including Tom Frazer at Dauenhauer Manufacturing (Hop Harvester Parts  -Fresno, CA), Dick Zachary at White Drive Products (Hydraulic Motors), Andre Buldoc at Charlebois Truck Parts (Burlington, VT), Charles Lehrer at Sparks Belting Co. (MI), and the folks at Prince Hydraulics (PTO Pump) and Kauffman Trailer.

Here is a video overview of the machine:

Here is another video in which Gene L’Etoile of Four Star Farms in Northfield, MA explains his hops operation, the mobile harvester in its first year of use , and his approach to drying and packing for a local market. This video was produced by How2Heroes a great “how-to online video destination that celebrates people’s passion for food.”


We recently released a new version of the calculator.  You can download it at the The Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund page.

Working under the Vermont Biofuels Initiative of the Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund and with UVM Extension, Callahan Engineering developed an Excel® based oilseed cost and profit calculator to assist farmers in forecasting the economics of this nascent segment.

Screen shot of the VT Oilseed Profit and Cost Calculator

[Read more…]

As the saying goes, “the cobbler’s children have no shoes.” Thus it sometimes feels at my home. I am usually busy helping others consider, design, install, troubleshoot and optimize their renewable energy systems and tend to neglect my own. This is the premise of my excuse for taking 2 years to complete my solar hot water system for domestic hot water heating. The second component of that excuse rests in my basic incompetence for sweated copper plumbing joints and I attribute one year of (very) part time work to chasing leaks in my system. With the help of some very patient friends, I finally filled the system with Cryotek and water and when the sun hit the tubes, presto, we were in business for making hot water from the sun. [Read more…]

Chris recently collaborated with Paul Betz at High Ledge Farm to assess, plan and implement the outdoor wood gasifier installed for greenhouse heating at the Woodbury, VT farm.  A report on the project can be found on the UVM Vegetable and Berry page in the case study section.

The heart of the system is a Central Boiler, eClassic 2300 which meets EPA Phase II emissions regulations for outdoor wood boilers. Paul intends to purchase cord wood cut and split and delivered at a price of $210/cord. With an installed heating system cost of $21,826 and 3 month use (last week of March through May) the system will result in $1,915 savings annually compared to the use of propane fuel purchased for $2.56/gallon. When fueled by renewable cord wood at current pricing for wood and propane the system will have a payback period of 11 years and avoid roughly 6 tons of CO2 emissions annually (equivalent to approximately 14,441 miles of average passenger car travel.)

Paul Betz

Chris attended the 2010 Borderview Farm Open House on August 5 and presented to the 200+ attendees on the topic of On Farm Oilseed Processing and Biodiesel Production.  This is part of an on-going contract with the Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund and Callahan Engineering’s work with Roger Rainville at Borderview. Roger hosts a large collection of field trials at his farm which are administered by the UVM Extension NW Crops and Soils Program Team.

As part of larger biomass study regarding greenhouse heating, Callahan Engineering assisted in collecting lessons learned and capturing performance data on the wood gasification boiler in use by Jared and Heather McDermott at Vermont Herb & Salad Company in Benson, VT.  The case study summarizes the McDermott’s experiences using the boiler to heat two greenhouses, their processing center and their residence.