Project Goals

Our primary aim is to demonstrate the economic feasibility at the scale of a large, commercial / private dairy farm at a prototype dairy farm, Maple Leaf Dairy, by converting the manure produced by more than 5,000 cows into valuable commodities including methane gas for heating purposes in the farm, fuel ethanol, and custom fertilizer. Part of the farm acreage (5%) will be devoted to canola (oilseed) production. Oilseeds will then be cold pressed to yield oil for “drop in” fuels (straight vegetable oil or biodiesel) to power vehicles on the farm or food use and high quality by-pass protein meal for animal rations.

A dairy farm with 5,000 cows produces 25 tons of manure per day (more than 9,000 tons / year). To handle the manure, the dairy must recycle 2.5 million gallons of water per day. The conventional solutions to these problems are to wash the manure into a storage lagoon, which is then agitated (mixed), hauled, and applied to field crops. Manure spread on the fields may not provide the correct nutrients and is subject to runoff losses and potential environmental polution.

ARE Primary Goals

  • Convert agricultural residues into biofuels and biobased products that can be sold or used on farm
  • Solve the environmental impact of manure
  • Improve the sustainable fertility of soils on the farm
  • Establish new income for farmers
  • Determine how the processes scale for use on small farms as well as large

The expected outcome of ARE’s efforts is to demonstrate cost effective livestock manure separation and processing to produce bioenergy, biofeedstocks, and value added co-products (mulch / fertilizers) for on-farm and off-farm (“export”) markets that can be carried out at a variety of large / medium / small scales. This technology will provide opportunities to exploit readily available, relatively low value potential cellulosic biofeedstocks-ones that largely avoid food / fuel concerns-to improve economic sustainability: on-farm substitution for purchased energy and feed / fertilizer nutrients or as potential farm revenue diversification, improve environmental sustainability.

The approach will reduce GHG / carbon footprint, soil / nutrient losses, and potential manure borne pathogens; and, improve regional economic development. We have shown that a demand exists for many of the manure fiber (mulch / fertilizer) co-products. The flexibility to adopt one (or several) of process  / flow components, sequentially, based on the specifics of extant farm infrastructure (manure type / volumes, manure handling / processing, etc.) increases the proposed project’s commercialization potential. The extensive process / flow measurement and analysis R&D, at both lab / bench and commercial scale, will provide the analytic / measurement tools to evaluate the economic, environmental, food safety, and regional economic development impacts of this potential commercialization at a variety of resolutions (farm, county, region).