Saving the world, one willow at a time!
Ramo: A unique circular economy model — developing vegetated ecotechnologies using willows for over 15 years.
What if we could turn willows into natural oil ?
The concept of harnessing a willow’s potential as an environmental game-changer first came up on the Allard family’s land in Saint-Roch-de-l’Achigan. In 2006, Francis Allard (link to profile), an engineer by training, his father Mario and his associate Dominic Leclerc decided to devote their hearts, minds and energy to the creation of a groundbreaking product that could replace oil. It was this project to produce bioenergy that led to the creation of Ramo, known at the time as Agro-Énergie.
It was on the Allard family land, in Saint-Roch-de-l’Achigan, that the idea of using willows to change the environment was born.
Natural oil falls short, but our willows show a remarkable ability to withstand the elements
Le biocarburant issu des saules a tout de suite été bon pour l’environnement, mais n’a pas pu faire concurrence au pétrole en ce qui a trait au prix à cause du contexte du Krach boursier de 2008. Résultat ? Notre équipe est retournée à la table à dessin et a travaillé à la création d’une nouvelle technologie environnementale à partir des saules, qui poussaient, alors, déjà très bien à Saint-Roch-de-l’Achigan.
Souvenir of Francis Allard and Olivier Payette on the show Les Dragons on May 8, 2017.
Building noise barriers and fences with our willows, fighting visual and noise pollution
Inspiration struck while Francis Allard was travelling in Europe; a fresh start was on the horizon. His trip led to some wonderful encounters, namely with representatives of our newest ally, the Pilebyg company. Francis also invited Olivier Paquette (link to profile), his childhood friend, to join him in this new project.
The growing team then started creating noise barriers and fences designed to reduce visual and noise pollution, whether for private backyards or large-scale infrastructure projects. The company then changed its name to Les Écrans Verts, another designation before Ramo came to be.
Dealing with raw material losses by creating the best mulch in the WORLD
The term “sustainable development” is of great importance. But so is “development”. At Ramo, our quest has always been to make positive strides forward in our field. In 2015, we asked ourselves: “Can we use the willow and wood residue our barriers generate?” The answer was a resounding yes! Our waste was used to make RCW (ramial chipped wood) mulch, a high quality product now sold in over 50 garden centres across Québec. This new offering dealt with three issues in one go: it fuelled our expertise and reduced our waste as well as our environmental impact.
At Ramo, we have always been on the lookout for progress.
Wastewater treatment using the entire willow growth cycle
It took some ten years, a great deal of experimentation and a substantial number of hours doing research for our leach water treatment project, using our willows, to come to fruition. Opting for an RBV approach supported by Polytechnique Montréal, we were able to demonstrate the effectiveness of our new technology through a pilot project carried out at WM (engineered landfill) in Sainte-Sophie.
This patent-pending technology, more commonly known nowadays as Evaplant, treats different effluents and is now an integral part of several sites throughout the province.
Working together, fostering growth
Over the years, the company had grown through its various offshoots. The time had come to bring them together, under one roof, to better meet growing demand. Though the COVID-19 pandemic was still severely affecting many sectors, we were thriving. In fact, our team almost doubled in size in 2021. Our new name, Ramo, also came to be that year, a nod to the many branches of our organization (the French word “rameau” means branch or twig).
Our willows take root in Abitibi and help mining soils
2022 was marked by the acquisition of 240 hectares of marginalized agricultural land at La Corne in Abitibi. We became owners of this large space to accommodate a willow nursery.
The ongoing project aims to establish several willow plantations near mines so as to produce ramial chipped wood (RCW), fostering a sustainable revegetation which mitigates the negative effects of mining heaps. Under this initiative, we will also use our Evaplant technology to provide a more efficient treatment of the wastewater generated by mining activities
– The future
Nurturing countless ideas
We can’t say what the future holds but ours will certainly be a lovely shade of green! Our entire team has always put its creativity to work, finding innovative ways to actively fight climate change. One thing is sure: our ideas and willows abound and will continue to do so for years to come!