The Accelerated Renewable Energy (ARE) Consortium is a University of Wisconsin – Soil Net – Maple Leaf Dairy Partnership funded by a 4-year $7 million grant from the Biomass Research and Development Initiative (BRDI) beginning in 2012 and a 20% in-kind match from Maple Leaf Dairy (Cleveland, WI).
The ARE Consortium is a partnership between the University of Wisconsin-Madison Departments of Agricultural and Applied Economics, Biochemistry, Biological Systems Engineering, Computer Sciences, and Soil Science, the University of Wisconsin-Extension, and Wisconsin-based companies Maple Leaf Dairy(Cleveland, WI), Soil Net, LLC (Madison, WI), Braun Electric, Inc. (St. Nazianz, WI), and FEECO International, Inc. (Green Bay, WI). ARE’s other major partners are Acro Bio-Tech Co., Ltd., Bioferm, Rockwell Automation, Schultz, and Trident Separators (Manure Systems, Inc.).
BRDI is a joint effort between the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), a division of U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to support research and development in advanced biofuels, bioenergy, and high-value biobased products. At present, all BRDI grants awarded must address the three legislatively mandated technical areas: (1) Feedstocks Development; (2) Biofuels and Biobased Products Development; and (3) Biofuels and Biobased Products Development Analysis. Advanced biofuels produced from these BRDI projects are expected to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by a minimum of 50 percent compared to fossil fuels and will play an important role in diversifying our energy portfolio. Greenhouse gas emissions are the fundamental cause of the greenhouse effect, a process by which thermal radiation from earth’s surface is absorbed by atmospheric greenhouse gases, and is re-radiated in all directions. Earth’s natural greenhouse effect makes life as we know it possible; however, human activities, such as the burning of fossil fuels, clearing of forests, and methane gas production, have intensified the natural greenhouse effect, causing global warming.
The goals of the ARE Project are to mitigate the bad environmental impacts of dairy manure (watershed pollution, bad odor, transportation involved in trucking manure, and overall carbon footprint) through on-farm fractionation and processing of manure into economically valuable products that will provide cash flow to the dairy. We aim to make the dairy farm more self-sufficient and to create jobs on the farm related to the new cash products (mulch, fertilizer, cellulosic ethanol, protein, high quality cold press oil, and oilseed meal). The project will improve soil quality through soil analysis and targeted application of custom mixed fertilizer as needed. The water recycling component of the system will reduce water demand and wastewater discharge, and the manure recycling will improve water quality by minimizing water pollutants. The conversion of manure to liquid fertilizer and fertilizer pellets will replace the application of manure to fields – a major source of unpleasant air emissions. Use of recycled water for barn cleaning will reduce infections and the need for antibiotics. The technology being developed is compatible with dairy farm infrastructure and integrates the new revenue sources with current end use applications (milk and meat).