The Center for Dairy Excellence held a forum on "Anaerobic Digesters within the Dairy Industry" in December for current and potential future owners of on-farm anaerobic digesters in Franklin County last month. This was held in an effort to exchange ideas and solutions to the challenges of operating a digester system. The meeting also featured an invitation to tour a working digester at Ben and Sharon Peckman's farm in Saint Thomas, Pa.
"This was a first time event which will hopefully gain traction if anaerobic digester owners express interest in the center coordinating similar events like this in the future," Don McNutt, dairy planning coordinator at the center said.
Special guests in attendance were retired PSU Agriculture Engineer Dr. Robert Graves and former Pennsylvania Secretary of Agriculture George Greig. Dr. Graves offered his insights based on nearly forty years of experience, while Secretary Greig has gained significant awareness and interest of digesters throughout Pennsylvania during his four years in office.
"It was good to be able to see another digester style, and to speak with other digester operators and hear about their issues and practical solutions they implement," Chad Hurst from Oregon Dairy Farm, Inc., said.
Current digester owners shared invaluable nuggets of information including:
- Opportunities for the addition of food waste into methane digesters are increasing.
- Separated solids used for bedding have been shown to be a very positive benefit as a bedding material for the dairy herd. The landscape industry may also have interest in the fibrous material for mulching and as a soil amendment allowing for additional local business opportunities.
- Stacking multiple benefits of an anaerobic digester system can result in a very positive return on investment.
- It is critical to the success of any anaerobic digester system that one person have a significant passion to see the system function efficiently and profitability.
They also challenged those who are interested in building a digester with the following advice:
- Now is the time for potential owners to do research and discovery.
- Producers should develop a game plan now so they are ready if the opportunity and circumstances (funding and permitting) present themselves.
- Research companies and vendors to determine which ones have a proven track record.
- Producers establish a trusted team of advisors to assist in the planning and "what if" process of coming to a go or no-go decision regarding the implementation of an AD system.
The center currently has funding available to establish a team for these such purposes. Call the office at 717-346-0849, email Don McNutt at email@example.com or visit www.centerfordairyexcellence.org to gain more insight into the resources.
The Center for Dairy Excellence is a non-profit organization initiated by the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture in 2004. Bringing together people from more than 40 different dairy organizations in Pennsylvania, the Center's mission is to enhance the profitability of the dairy industry by empowering people, creating partnerships, and increasing the availability and use of resources. Learn more about the Center at www.centerfordairyexcellence.org.