The sustainability of the ARE prototype farm arises from turning cow manure into valuable bioproducts, including on-farm bioenergy production of biodiesel, cellulosic ethanol, biogas (methane), and associated biobased co-products to replace / reduce purchased inputs of energy and fertilizer / feed nutrients and / or create value-added revenue streams for ethanol, biodiesel, custom fertilizers, and recycled manure-fiber-based soil co-products (bedding, mulches). The goal is a complete closed system that provides dairy farmers with multiple opportunities for increased economic and environmental performance via precision agricultural manure nutrient management, as well as practical solutions to important economic and environmental issues.
The foundation underlying the economic / environmental / bioenergy business model derives from innovative, proprietary (patented), polymer-based solutions developed by Soil Net, LLC that enable cost-effective separation (“fractionation”) of dairy manure and associated bioenergy coproducts: ethanol, vegetable oil / meals, biodiesel, and organic soil amendments such as mulches and customized fertilizer nutrients. Importantly, these polymer-based technologies have been shown to provide cost-effective separation solutions at smaller scale than many extant separation technologies.
Soil Net’s cost-efficient and effective manure processing comprises nutrient and organic matter / fiber separation, particle sizing, mixing (polymers, catalysts, enzymes), water reduction, anaerobic digestion, and alcohol fermentation / distillation. Primary bioproducts of manure processing include:
- Use of environmentally friendly, food grade polymers to recover and recycle water from manure washed from barns
- Conversion of methane from digester to electricity
- Separation of large fibers to be used for bedding in barns or sold as garden mulch as a substitute for peat moss
- Processing of small fibers for enzymatic conversion to sugars
- Conversion of sugars to bioethanol
- Production of fertilizer pellets from byproducts
ARE will conduct biochemical and biophysical analyses on all feedstock, intermediate, and final products to determine their properties and associated process efficiencies. All system processes and components, including machinery and equipment, are evaluated for processing costs and potential revenue streams (breakeven quantities, prices and / or time); throughput (process quantity and composition flow balance); life-cycle / carbon footprint; “Plan B” (system malfunction / failure plans); maintenance, energy needs / sources; and physical location, and are being continuously improved.