January's American Agriculturist unveiled what's proving to be groundbreaking technology from Bion Environmental Technologies that dramatically reduces nitrogen, phosphorus and odors in livestock manure. Late last week, state officials revisited the the project site at Kreider Farms, near Manheim, Pa., for an update.
In brief, they learned that the micro-aerobic digestion treatment facility for the 1,200-cow dairy was performing as expected or better. An independent laboratory analysis found the technology is already removing 85% of the nitrogen target and 100% of the phosphorus target of the nutrient-reduction plan filed with Department of Environmental Protection.
Bion's $7.5-million installation will be fully operational by Oct. 1. State officials view it as a win-win-win for agriculture, neighboring communities and the Chesapeake Bay. It effectively reduces nutrients finding their way into streams and watersheds, provides nutrient credit offsets and can generate renewable energy to power up to 2,700 homes.
"The Kreider project is a prime example that our efforts must move away from paper and plans and be about people and projects, which equates to progress for Pennsylvania's environment and agricultural community," noted John Hines, Department of Environmental Protection executive deputy secretary.
The project was funded by Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority. DEP will verify nutrient reductions. Offsets can be used by municipal wastewater and regional stormwater facilities as qualified reductions for the federal Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Chesapeake Bay initiative. The credits could also be made available for use by municipalities in other states in the Chesapeake Bay watershed area.
Former USDA Secretary and current Bion executive vice chair Ed Schafer noted that "Remediation for nutrients has long been unaffordable by livestock operators. Now, verified nutrient reductions made possible by this technology enables on-farm installations to provide an affordable solution to the Chesapeake Bay nutrient-reduction mandates."
Key advantages over anaerobic digestion
Data from the Kreider Farm Project is running close or exceeding these initial Bion projections:
• Micro-aeration recovers more than two times more energy per animal than conventional anaerobic systems – 70,000 BTU per cow per day versus up to 30,000 BTUs.
• Micro-aeration substantially reduces nitrogen and phosphorus in manure liquid effluent – 70% N removal and 75% P removal versus none with anaerobic digestion.
• Bion's system dramatically reduces ammonia, odors and greenhouse gases – more than 95% versus limited reductions with anaerobic systems.