Entrepreneurs Ride Manure Tech Wave
by Jeffrey Carter
Bridgetown, Ontario In one hand
Jim Morris holds a glass of dark liquid hog manure.
In another, he holds a glass of potable water
that started out as manure.
The transformation was achieved through VSEP, or vibratory sheer enhanced process,
developed by the California firm New Logic Research. Morris and his associate,
Don Goyette, have a demonstration model on loan from the company to assess the
The pair, working from Bridgetown College for the firm Rondeau Anaerobic, Inc.,
is also assessing an anaerobic digester designed and built by Mike Verellen of
Optimized Energy at Shedden, Ontario.
The two technologies can stand on their own or be used in combination. Their
success will depend on the economics from a farmer's perspective in disposing
of manure and in creating energy from the methane gas from animal wastes.
From an environmental perspective, both the VSEP and anaerobic technologies have
potential, Morris said. Both processes reduce the water content in manure, make
transport easier and reduce the risk of environmental loading.
Morris has been a research scientist specializing in livestock production for
more than 30 years. Goyette has more than 40 years of sales and promotion experience
in private industry.
Verellen estimated his digester system has a payback time of seven years and
he wants to drop that to five.
He said anaerobic digestion has been around for years. It's used by some municipalities
to treat urban waste. In China, there's an estimated five million, low-tech anaerobic
digesters creating energy from household wastes and livestock manure.
In North America and Europe, however, the technology is emerging in a more sophisticated
"With electronics and a few other innovative ideas and with the increased
cost of energy, we're able to make the economics work," Verellen said. "We
also have serious environmental concerns so everything is lined up for this technology."
In Verellen's system, the digestion tanks are built horizontally, rather than
vertically, so they can be installed under the slatted floors of existing hog
operations. It is also modular in design. A single digestion tank can handle
manure from a 1,000-pig finishing barn. For larger operations, additional tanks
No additional water is needed to flush the manure into the digestion tanks, Verellen
said. Tank slurry is recirculated for this purpose.
The digesters, through microbial action, create methane and carbon dioxide. The
gas can be used to power an internal combustion engine or turbine generator.
Verellen estimated there's enough electricity generated to power a farm with
some left over to sell.
In addition, the digestion process eliminates from 95 to 97 percent of the pathogenic
organisms, reduces odour, and cuts the water content of the manure by 25 to 30
"We've been at it for 3½ years now and we're just getting it to the
business stage. We've built the prototype and we're at the college to do some
testing," Verellen said. He plans to test a commercial-sized anaerobic unit
at Bridgetown and begin selling systems to farmers before the year's end.
Morris says New Logic Research's VSEP system is similar to the reverse osmosis
technology used by maple syrup producers to reduce the water content of sap before
It is far more advanced, however. The process removes up to 80 percent of the
water from manure.
The vibrating action improves the pressurized filtering efficiency and helps
prevent filter clogging. In addition, when the filter is used, even the smallest
virus organisms are removed, along with bacteria and organic matter.
"Our idea is if we can get it clean enough, we could recycle the water for
for flushing or washing the barn or even to to recycle it through the animals," Morris
A variety of filtering options are available. At the finest setting, only beneficial
nutrients such as phosphorous and potash, along with a small amount of ammonia
salts remain in the water, Morris said.
The nutrients could help reduce feed costs. For example, if there's enough phosphorous
in the water to reduce the need for the mineral in a swine premix feed from 8.5
to 7.5 percent, feed could be $50 a tonne cheaper, Morris said.
Morris and Goyette are working with a small demonstration model. Larger models
suitable for commercial hog operations are worth about $270,000 US and are automated.
Morris said the technology seems to be reliable. Liquid manure is
screened through a wire mesh before processing. Two materials emerge
after processing manure
with the consistency of thick pudding and clear water.
With slightly coarser filters, greater throughput can be achieved, but there
would be more impurities in the water. The level of filtration would be determined
by specific farm needs.
The initial investment for a VSEP system would be substantial. But manure sales
could help offset costs or even turn a profit.