An abstract submitted by College of Agriculture and Life Sciences researchers for the annual meeting of the Southern Section of the American Society of animal scientists won the National Pork Board Swine Industry Award for Innovation.
Dr. Theo van Kempen, a swine nutritionist in the Department of Animal Science, was the lead author of the paper, which was titled “RE-Cycle: Recipe for Waste-Free Swine Production.” Co-authors were Dr. Jeanne Koger, Animal Science research associate; Preston Burnette, Animal Science laboratories mechanic; Deola Ali, a graduate student working in van Kempen’s lab; Dr. Jerry Spivey, research professor of Chemical Engineering; Dr. Ada Wossink, associate professor of Agricultural and Resource Economics; Alex Fassbender, executive vice president of engineering technology for ThermoEnergy, a company supplying some of the equipment being used in the project; and Dr. Paul Loeffler, professor of chemistry at Sam Houston State University.
The award, given by the National Pork Board, is designed to “promote and reward original and innovative ideas that are scientifically based and relevant to the pork industry,” according to a society web site. The society annual meeting was in February in Mobile, Ala.
The paper described an innovative approach a team of college researchers is taking to manage waste from hog farms. The team has designed a conveyor belt to collect swine waste. The belt is positioned with a slight slope so that urine, the liquid portion of the waste stream, runs off. Solid waste remains on the belt. As the belt moves beneath the area where pigs are housed, it carries waste to the end of the area, where it may be collected.
The team plans to treat the liquid waste to remove and recover the ammonia it contains. The ammonia may then be processed to produce ammonium sulfate fertilizer. Solid waste is to be gasified, or burned in a low-oxygen environment to convert complex organic compounds to gases. These gases — methane, carbon monoxide and hydrogen — will then be used to make fuel-grade ethanol. The ash that remains after gasification contains minerals such as phosphorus and calcium, and the researchers hope to use it as a feed ingredient in pig diets.
The RE-Cycle system is one of 18 technologies selected for testing as part of the Smithfield Foods-Premium Standard Farms-Frontline Farmers Agreement with the North Carolina Attorney General, designed to fund development of alternative swine waste management technologies.
The individual elements of the belt collection-gasification system — belt collection, gasification, processing the liquid portion of the waste stream to produce fertilizer — have been tested successfully. The researchers have now set up the entire system in Grinnells Laboratory where it will be tested as a system.
— Dave Caldwell