Iowa State University’s Consortium for Cultivating Human and Naturally reGenerative Enterprises is hosting its inaugural Conference on Agriculture, Technology and Innovation on March 25-27 in Des Moines.
C-CHANGE’s conference — themed “Why are we missing the boat on biogas?” — is designed to bring together experts from agriculture, energy, government, science and society to share new thinking and ideas to expand the value chain for renewable natural gas, a component of biogas. RNG is one of the best-incentivized and fastest-growing product categories in today’s bioeconomy.
University researchers say a well-designed biogas value chain could foster economic growth in rural America, while also alleviating concerns over energy security, greenhouse gas emissions, climate resilience, soil health, water quality and more in the Midwest.
What is C-CHANGE?
“C-CHANGE was created as a platform to encourage faculty to collaborate across and beyond the Iowa State University campus to build science-based partnerships to meet 21st century challenges and opportunities in agriculture, technology and innovation,” says Lisa Schulte Moore, C-CHANGE director and professor of natural resource ecology and management at ISU. “From wind energy to ethanol, biodiesel and solar, Iowa has been an innovator and leader in renewable energy. We believe this conference can help our state carve out a leadership position in biogas that can foster growth in the rural economy, while also delivering a positive impact on the environment.”
The conference will take place at the Hilton Des Moines Downtown Hotel. The event is structured to share information and generate discussion regarding feedstocks, anaerobic digestion, coproducts, distribution, financing, policy, market opportunities and societal impact.
Encouraged to attend are ag business and energy industry representatives, farmers and farmland owners, entrepreneurs, college and graduate students, researchers, government officials, and representatives of ag, energy and environmental nongovernmental organizations.
Producing biogas from manure
Bryan Sievers, who is helping plan the conference and will give a presentation, heads up Sievers Family Farms and AgriReNew located in Scott County near Davenport, Iowa. The Sievers Farm operation partners with Glenora Feed Yard to capture manure from their beef cattle feedlot operations.
Using an anaerobic digester system, AgriReNew converts the manure, along with waste streams from several ag processing facilities in the region, into methane that powers a generator to produce enough electricity to power about 1,000 homes annually. The two 970,000-gallon digesters also produce an abundant supply of rich, environmentally friendly natural fertilizers that provide valuable nutrients to area farms, thereby virtually eliminating the need for imported, inorganic forms of fertilizer.
“As a lifelong Iowan, I care deeply about soil health, clean water and economic opportunity in rural Iowa,” Sievers says. “By growing a vibrant biogas market, through good policy, we can meet all three of these goals.”
The conference kicks off with a pre-dinner mixer starting at 5 p.m. March 25. The next day-and-a-half will feature a diverse panel of speakers representing science, practice and policy aspects of developing the value chain, including Dave Babson, U.S. Department of Energy; Rudi Roeslein from Roeslein Alternative Energy; and Patrick Serfass from the American Biogas Council. Register online at C-CHANGE.
C-CHANGE was established in 2018 as an Iowa State Presidential Interdisciplinary Research Initiative. ISU launched PIRI in 2014 to encourage the creation of large-scale interdisciplinary teams — distinguished by intellectual excellence and driven by a clear vision of fundamental advances — to explore new discoveries or technological developments with state, national and global impacts.
Return value to people, land
The C-CHANGE mission is to return value to people and the land through research partnerships and work in four platforms:
Smart technologies. These are technologies that improve farm productivity, profitability and stewardship.
Coupled systems. This platform integrates food, energy and water systems to improve and create new products and services.
Socioeconomic innovations. This advances investment in the long-term care of rural and natural assets.
Leadership and engagement. The goal is to foster diverse participation and partnerships to create new value.
“Meeting the food and nutrition needs of a world population of 10 billion people while maintaining and enhancing our natural resources is one of the single-greatest challenges facing our global society in the 21st century,” says Wendy Wintersteen, president of Iowa State. “The work that C-CHANGE is spearheading — including the upcoming conference on agriculture, technology and innovation — is a shining example of the positive impacts ISU can make when the university brings together diverse disciplines and perspectives for a shared purpose of innovating better solutions to significant challenges.”