CALS team gets $7 million for on-farm dairy manure conversion project

A CALS research team is receiving a $7 million grant from the joint USDA/Dept. of Energy Biomass Research and Development Initiative. The project will convert dairy manure into fiber and fertilizer, with the fiber being converted to ethanol, the manure used for fertilizer, and oil from the crops converted to biodiesel used in farm equipment. The project goal is to develop closed-loop systems with new product streams that benefit the environment. The research will be sited at Maple Leaf dairy, a 4000-cow operation in Manitowoc County. The farm is one of several state firms partnering in the project.

Principal investigators include John Markley (Biochemistry), John Norman (Soil Science), Tom Cox (Ag. and Applied Economics), Doug Reinemann (Biological Systems Engineering) and Aicardo Roa-Espinosa, an adjunct professor in Biological Systems Engineering who is the founder of Soil Net, a biological technologies firm that has developed technologies that will be used to fractionate manure from the farm’s cows.

The pilot project will demonstrate an innovative process for using polymer-based technology to separate, or fractionate, manure from dairy cows, recycling the water, generating biogas for local consumption, utilizing the fiber as feedstock for ethanol production, and conversion of the digested solids into high-grade mulch and organic fertilizer to be sold as new profit avenue for the dairy farm, according to the project proposal. The researchers envision a complete closed cycle that will provide dairy farmers with self-sufficiency and income and eliminate current costs of transportation and disposal of this waste and related water contamination problems.

For more on the project, see this article from the Milwaukee Journal/Sentinel.