The Livestock Farm as Renewable Energy Generator

Each year some 590-880 million tons of methane are released into the atmosphere worldwide through microbial activity. About 90% of the emitted methane derives from biogenic sources, i.e. from decomposition of biomass. The remainder is of fossil origin (e.g. petrochemical processes).

Biogas originates from bacteria in the process of bio-degradation of organic material in absence of oxygen, under so-called anaerobic conditions. The natural generation of biogas is an important part of the biogeochemical carbon cycle. Methanogenes (methane-producing bacteria) are the last link in a chain of micro-organisms which degrade organic material and return the decomposition products to the environment. In this process biogas is generated; a source of renewable energy.

Anaerobic fermentation involves the activities of three different bacterial communities, which are hydrolysis, acidification and methane formation. The process of biogas-production depends on various parameters. For example, changes in ambient temperature can have a negative effect on bacterial activity.

In order to grow, bacteria need more than just a supply of organic substrates as a source of carbon and energy. They also require nutrients. In addition to carbon, oxygen and hydrogen, the generation of biomass requires an adequate supply of nitrogen, sulfur, phosphorous, potassium, calcium, magnesium and a number of trace elements such as iron, manganese, molybdenum, zinc, cobalt etc. “Normal” substrates such as agricultural residues or municipal sewage usually contain adequate amounts of the mentioned elements. Higher concentrations of any individual substance usually has an inhibitory effect, so that analyses are recommended on a case-by-case basis to determine the amount of which nutrients, if any, still need to be added.

Biogas technology is a cost-effective, environmentally and neighborhood friendly addition to the existing manure management strategies. The biogas technology anaerobically digesters manure, resulting in biogas and liquefied, low-odour effluent. By managing the anaerobic digestion of manure, the biogas technology significantly reduces Biochemical Oxygen Demand (BOD) and pathogen levels, removes most noxious odours and converts most of the organic nitrogen to ammonium.

Pinehedge is currently using conventional energy sources for the production of its organic Pinehedge Farms Yogourt, Kefir and low fat Kefirs. Once the anaerobic digester is installed and operating, Pinehedge will be producing with energy originating from manure, reducing green house gas emissions and producing not only a healthy product, but also doing so with a healthy technology that brings organic food production a step further. The Anaerobic Digester project is currently evaluated by the Ontario Ministry of Infrastructure and Housing. Once approved, the Biofuel to Biofood project would involve research by the University of Guelph through its organic farm attached to the Alfred Colledge. The project has the potential to not only demonstrate new viable alternatives for improved organic food and food processing production, but would also reach out to the students at the Alfred Colledge, introducing the combination of farming and renewable energy production to them.

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