Sponsored By
Western Farmer-Stockman Logo

Washington State U Leads Anaerobic Digester Technology For Dairy IndustryWashington State U Leads Anaerobic Digester Technology For Dairy Industry

Special field day July 10 brings latest concepts to producers.

T.J. Burnham 1

July 1, 2013

2 Min Read

Washington State will host a special field day July 10  to fanfare its latest anaerobic digester technology for the dairy industry.

The Lynden, Wash., event will show new ideas – much of it developed by WSU researchers – at the event, including a suite of new tools which add value to the process. The researchers and their commercial partners claim to have transformed an environmental concern (manure) in agriculture into a viable economical solution with the digesters.

"The need to simultaneously produce renewable energy and assist growers in meeting nutrient management plans and mitigating air and water quality concerns is driving development of these technologies," says Craig Frear, WSU  Department of Biological Systems Engineering researcher. He is considered a leader in the effort to widen a system of complementary technologies centered on anaerobic digestion.

Anaerobic digestion is primarily the focus of a dairy industry technology. Manure management is a constant environmental concern, and a growing one with more than 450 dairies in Washington with about 275,000 cows – adding up to a big heap of waste material that must be managed, notes Frear.

Since the industry is the second largest farm business in Washington at more than $900 million in economic value, working with dairymen to resolve the waste matter is a WSU priority as part of the industry's Climate Friendly Farming Project.

 "Beyond the economic import, greenhouse-gas-related environmental concerns make dairy central to any effort to make farming more climate friendly," says Frear. "Within Washington state, 30% of dairy farms have more than 500 cows. Although large dairies or Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations provide economies of scale and milk production efficiencies, the growth of CAFOs elicits climate change and other environmental concerns, particularly in regard to manure management."

Enter the anaerobic digester, not a sliver bullet but certainly a tool of relief in terms of processing dairy waste into power.

And when debuting the latest in the technology at the WSU field day, the latest improvements in anaerobic digestion were unveiled, including  usable biofertilizers, solids separation techniques, and biogas production.

"Biofertilizes that are produced through the nutrient recovery process can be used by farmers as replacements for fossil fuel based fertilizers," says Frear. "It's truly a win-win."

Many of the environmental threats from dairies are resolved using the anaerobic digestion process, he states. "Modern anaerobic digestion technology is a known wastewater treatment approach that converts complex organic material to biogas. In essence, the process biologically mineralizes a fraction of the organic carbon into inorganic carbon in the form of biogas simultaneously diminishing odors, stabilizing waste, decreasing pathogen counts and reducing green house gas emissions."

For more information on the field day , click here.


About the Author(s)

T.J. Burnham 1

Editor, Western Farmer-Stockman

T.J. Burnham has covered western agriculture for 42 years. A University of Michigan journalism program grad, he worked for The Sacramento Bee for 15 years before moving into specialty farm magazine writing. He has been on the Farm Progress staff for 10 years.

"A lot of my uncles back in Michigan were farmers, but my interest was primarily to become a hot shot city desk reporter. Once I was given a job at the Bee on the metro desk, they told me that they’d hired too many new reporters, and half of us had to go. However, they said there was an opening in the newspaper’s ag division, and if I worked there until the probationary period was over, I could be reassigned to general reporting. I took the job, but by the time the probation period was ended, I found I enjoyed covering ag so much that I never asked to go back to the city side.”

T.J. joined Farm Progress as a California Farmer reporter, then became editor of the Western Farmer-Stockman. He has earned a reputation in the West as a strong source of direct seed information, and has affiliated Western Farmer-Stockman as the official magazine of the Pacific Northwest Direct Seed Association.

His wife, Sally, writes for the magazine and helps with bookwork concerning freelance writers from the eight western state arena which the magazine serves.

T.J. likes hiking and fishing, and dabbles in woodworking projects. He also enjoys gardening and photography.

Subscribe to receive top agriculture news
Be informed daily with these free e-newsletters

You May Also Like