Laurie Family Maple Farms, North Lawrence, NY
The plumes of steam rising from sugar shacks is a harbinger of spring in the North Country. Images come to mind of tin buckets hanging on roadside maples and wood fired boilers in small pine shacks. At the Laurie Family sugar shack in North Lawrence, the steam is still there, but the operation has solidly moved into the 21st century. Enabled by Internet connections from Nicholville Telephone Company and Slic Network Solutions , this traditional spring activity has been transformed into a state of the art, precision sugaring operation.
The CDL Sirocco wood-pellet fired boiler can produce 55-60 gallons of syrup per hour. Using a reverse osmosis system to concentrate the sap before it enters the evaporator reduces the amount of fuel that is needed to produce the syrup. By using wood pellets, the operation capitalizes on sustainable, carbon-neutral and locally available fuels.
Using connected sensors and video cameras, Darren Laurie monitors over 15,800 maple taps in the family's North Lawrence and Lake Ozonia Sugar Bushes. Sensors located in the sugar bush vacuum line alerts to any loss of suction - indicating a leak, blockage, or in some cases, an animal chewing the sap lines. Apparently, squirrels, porcupines and even bears enjoy gnawing on the plastic lines.
Keeping tabs on the vacuum pumps ensures the maximum amount of sap is collected. Cameras, managed from a smart phone, let Darren know when the up to 8000 gallons of sap in the tank is ready to be offloaded to the sap truck and brought to the boiler on Rt 11B in North Lawrence.
Once the Sap arrives at the sugar "shack," it is transferred into a stainless steel holding tank, then run through a reverse-osmosis system to remove up to 50% of the water in the sap, significantly reducing the amount of energy needed to concentrate the sap into the golden elixir we all enjoy on our pancakes and waffles. The concentrate is then transferred into the feed tank that provides a steady stream of sap into the wood pellet-fired evaporator. At maximum capacity, the system is capable of producing 55-60 gallons of syrup per hour! Syrup is then run through a filtration system to remove any impurities. The syrup is then graded for color and packaged into 55 gallon drums for shipping.
This year, Laurie's hopes to ship up to 5500 gallons of maple syrup to their customers. Through the smart use of technology, Laurie's Maple Products is essentially a one-man operation.