Every production season has been different from the next at Black Bird and 2023 was no different. Black Bird began tapping in mid-December 2022... it takes a while to put in 125,000 taps! By the end of February, taps were installed, and the collection grid was tight (high vacuum). Production began as usual, with a few smaller sap runs, steadily progressing to peak flows by late March - early April. Unfortunately, weather turned unseasonably warm in mid-April for a period of 4 days straight. This reduced our snow cover to practically zero and southern facing trees started to bud. Although the temperatures did drop the following week, flows drastically reduced and end of season flavours began to develop. Although not a high production year like 2022, average production was achieved in 2023.
Propane CDL Master evaporator, doing what it does best... making syrup!
Final product ready for shipping. Inventories were completely sold by July, 2023.
Upon completion of untapping our crew tackled a sizeable expansion during the summer and fall. Black Bird targeted areas surrounding our current collection grid that were difficult to access during initial start-up. Staff took a good look at topography and available area, wringing out an additional 160 acres that flow via gravity to the production facility. This translated to approximately 14,000 additional taps, bringing our grand total for 2024 season to 140,000 taps.
Black Bird staff making 1" mainline connections and installing 5/16" laterals.
Black Bird completed some major facility upgrades in 2023. The 2022 season showed us that additional Reverse Osmosis (RO) capacity was required on site. H2O Innovation delivered a brand-new RO (more on that below) in mid-February. Although, installation could have occurred prior to the season, Black Bird had bigger piping upgrade plans...
This picture shows the extensive piping upgrade completed by Black Bird. Although it looks complicated, it drastically simplified valving throughout the facility. It also allows for future automation and is more teachable to new staff. Transfer pumps at the far end are used to transfer sap or permeate (RO water) to silos.
This manifold was the starting point for all the piping. Designed by Black Bird and manufactured by CDL, it is the main manifold for RO control. Note the electric valves for automated CDL ROs. Black Bird is calling this manifold the "Vortex" due to the crazy water cyclone formed when all three ROs are drawing.
Above is another major upgrade that Black Bird believes will drastically improve sap management for the 2024 season. Shown are four 7,700 US gallon tanks at the facility (Black Bird also has four 30,000 US gallon silos). These tanks are now paired with two sets of 6" overflows, allowing for a 'cascade' effect of sap from one tank to the next. The thought is that this cascade effect will allow solids to settle, reducing the need for RO pre-filter changes.
Last but not least...
Here it is folks, the H2O Innovation High Brix Supra 8000 RO, one of the biggest manufactured by H2O. With 32 membranes it can concentrate 8000 gallons of sap per hour. Black Bird recently ran the initial start up with no issues. In 2024 it will have the opportunity to show what it is made of.
Goals for the 2024 season are centered around completion of collection grid (Approximately 30,000 taps). Obviously, any capital investment depends on production. So, let us all have a great 2024 season.
All the Best,
Black Bird Management Ltd.