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Saturday, September 29, 2012

Perpetual Life Cycle System - Simplicity is Key

In nature "waste" does not exist, rather a perpetual life cycle rearranges molecular structures so the finished product for one use is the basis for its next life. Using modern technology, on-farm anaerobic digestion systems seem to emulate nature's integrated approach to resource management.


Doug Kunnemann, Amy Moreland
& Chris Pierce  during tour
Several Elemental Impact Partners spent an afternoon at Biotown Ag in Reynolds, IN visiting the on-farm anaerobic digestion (A.D.) system. Longtime Ei pal Chris Pierce of Organics Solutions Management gave a detailed tour of the system along with its farm and community integration points.  As managers of the farm A.D., OSM simplified the system processes to create a zero waste scenario where all end and by-products are valuable contributors to the farm and community.

An operating farm with 3,500 head of hormone and antibiotic-free cattle and 900 swine, manure management was the foundation for building the A.D. system. Manure is excellent A.D. feed stock, especially when combined with community "waste" - food, sludge and fats, oils & grease from grease traps. A.D. systems capture methane gas produced from organic decomposition in a controlled environment and generate two by-products: 1> nutrient-rich water and 2> digestate, the remaining solids.


Digestate ready for it next use
as bedding in cattle feed area
The methane gas produced at the Biotown Ag A.D. is converted to electricity, which is used first to power farm operations with the remainder sold to the local grid. With careful testing procedures in-place, the nutrient-rich water is used for on-farm crop irrigation.  Crops are used as animal feed, with a portion returning to manure through the digestion process. The digestate makes excellent bedding for the cattle feed area, returning to the A.D. system once filled with manure. And the perpetual life cycle continues, similar to the cycles in nature.

Simplicity is the foundation inherent in the OSM operating model. In addition to on-farm A.D. systems, OSM developed a series of portable A.D. systems and components through partner company Blue Streams.  With minimal moving parts, Blue Stream units in general use off-the-rack equipment that are easily repaired and / or replaced if necessary. Units fit on standard waste | recycling compactor pads.


Portable Organics Manager
The patented Portable Organics Manager is an on-site food waste collection unit that macerates and slurries food waste for up to a four-week holding period before delivery to its destination, whether A.D. or composting. With an in-system pump, the POM allows for the use of traditional tank trucks and results in significant transportation savings due to larger collection loads.

For a pictorial recap of the impressive tour, visit the Ei FB album, 09-25-12 OSM On-Farm A.D. TourNote Chris added comments to many of the pictures with volume and technical details.

Ei is excited to explore how the perpetual life cycle model may be replicated in commercial settings. Simplicity is key to unlocking the genius model inherent within natural cycles. OSM appears on-track to developing systems where integrity and simplicity intertwine into success.  Soon zero waste practices will evolve into perpetual life systems.

6 comments:

  1. I wish that I could have attended this and other parts of your tours through Indiana! I want to learn more about anaerobic digestion in addition to my current compost options. Keep up your great solutions and writings as they not only enlighten us as to "What can and should be" but inspire us to reach for excellence, too!

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    1. Thanks Scott! YOU are a true inspiration! I may write and communicate important messages - YOU are in the field taking direct action in the commercial world. Now back to finishing the blog post on the tour of Piazza Produce, where you brought the facility to zero waste, through simplicity, integrity and perseverance.

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  2. "An operating farm with 3,500 head of hormone and antibiotic-free cattle and 900 swine, manure management was the foundation for building the A.D. system. Manure is excellent A.D. feed stock, especially when combined with community "waste" - food, sludge and fats, oils & grease from grease traps" ...

    By mixing a concoction of community wastes that could include GM fats and sundry chemicals including cleaning agents and solvents, how do you propose an organic outcome ?

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    1. Daniel, thanks for coming right to the post. Your points are excellent yet I am not the one to address them. Chris Pierce is the man of the hour for these questions. I will send Chris the e-mail notice requesting him to respond. YEA - I love the dialogue, this is one of the reasons I write the posts!

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    2. All feed stocks are tested and our staff audits all generators and generator processes. A digester is a biological process. All materials added to the system are biodegradable. All effluent and Digestate coming out of the system is tested monthly prior to applying to land. Indiana Dept. of Env Mgt has comprehensive guidelines we must follow to use as fertilizer or soil amendment. The word "Organic" has a lot of meanings to a lot of people. Our effluent and Digestate are not currently "Certified Organic Fertilizer" but we are going in that direction.

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    3. Thanks Chris! I appreciate your immediate response to Daniel.

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