Needed Revenue for 21st Century Farming

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Biogas – Needed Revenue for 21st Century Dairy Farming

“Germany, Italy, and Lancaster County, Pennsylvania (USA). What do they all have in common?”

Unlike much of the world, these regions all maximize the “total output” of each cow to operate more profitably. This means selling milk but also converting manure into electricity or renewable gas, useful heat and free bedding. In addition, they produce a liquid fertilizer that is easier and less expensive to spread, more plant available and weed seed free. Here is video of an experienced Lancaster County, PA nutrient manager describing the benefits of liquid and solid digestate. These farm communities incorporate anaerobic digesters as an “everyday” piece of equipment, the same as a tractor or alley scraper.

Now, thanks to the arrival of the far larger funding pools from Climate Smart Commodities programs (see below), there is no better time to install a biogas system

Our new “Explainer” video describing the various revenue streams available to farmers including increasing payments for reducing the greenhouse gases that cause global warming.

“Are there Grants and Incentives?”

Financial Support via the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act 

In the USA, established federal and state agricultural funding programs have increased in historic proportion due to the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) which allocated $369 billion to fight climate change (Climate Smart Commodities). This includes $40 billion for agriculture. Corporations also purchase carbon credits and this provides funding worldwide as well.

Digesters are also a great tool for reducing phosphorus runoff and improving water quality and this improves a farm’s chances of receiving EQIP funds from the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).

Farms are not fully aware of the generous new funding sources, but we study the possibilities to keep them informed.


“We can’t get much money for renewable electricity in my region…”

Going off grid or producing renewable natural gas (RNG)

Should your region pays too little for electricity, why not just make your own? By going “off grid”, a small to mid-size farm can offset its typical $60,000 annual bill. See time lapse video and details of smaller digester here. 

Another option for lucky farms located near natural gas pipelines is to upgrade their biogas to pipeline quality. The costs are higher but so are profits.

Unique, small (50kW – 150kW), yet robust, digester. Agricultural Digesters LLC is an exclusive representative for this system in Vermont and other regions. It is affordable, requires limited maintenance and provides significant income for farms of 200 – 750 adult cows.

On northern Vermont farm in front of German made combined heat and power (CHP) genset. 

“Swine manure? Chicken manure? Corn silage?  Brewery waste? Food Processing Waste? Digesters process all kinds of organic waste.”

Other types of farms and organic waste. 

Agricultural digesters make sense for all types of farms internationally, depending on project goals. For example, some pig farms are in danger of losing heat and if this happens, young stock can die. A CHP or boiler will provide this needed warmth..

Other farms are located in regions without reliable electricity. A digester can provide power to the farm and perhaps a nearby business wishing to compete internationally 24/7.

Governments often fine farms for not managing their manure causing air, water and soil pollution. A methane digester helps eliminate these fines while producing superior organic fertilizer, energy and heat.

“Will my farm smell better?”

85% – 90% odor reduction improves real estate prices, reduces neighbor complaints and improves quality of life for all.

Studies suggest a digester reduces manure odors 85%-90%. This means higher surrounding property values as well as fewer legal complaints from area homes and businesses.

At one one farm in Vermont a middle school is located less than 100 yards from its manure pit. The digester we plan for launch by early 2022 will eliminate this distraction to young students. The project will also allow any “future farmers” at the school to understand not only the economic benefits of biogas but also the importance of dairies being good stewards of the environment.


Agricultural Digesters

Standing on top of an American made complete mix digester are two visitors from the Government of Taiwan. Muir took them for a tour of Yippee Farm and others in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, USA. When the returned a report was submitted for the Taiwanese EPA.

Manure digester in USA for 1,400 cows. Above ground, complete mix, German design.

“Will it work? I heard horror stories!”

Anaerobic digestion is proven technology. 

Many farmers are not familiar with the proven American and European companies that have built hundreds of successful agricultural digesters. We know them and can find the one best suited to your unique situation.

A proven digester company has decades of experience not only refining their technology but observing different feedstocks (e.g. cow, pig and chicken manure as well food processing waste). They have seen every conceivable problem and developed solutions that keep digesters operating for decades – something important to investors who want proven suppliers.

“I’ve heard of farmers up at 3 AM with their digester. Seems like there is always some problem that needs to be dealt with.”

Do you want to be a farmer or a digester operator?  

Inevitably, challenges occur with a digester that is fed different organics from various sources, in varying amounts, at different times. This does not happen to the farmer who uses consistent, slurry waste from his own farm – for example, manure. Another sure way to limit operational supervision time is to co-digest a small percentage of the same off-farm substrate, such as brewery waste, in consistent quantities, on a regular basis.

This is not to say that co-digesting multiple feedstocks is a bad idea. Such a system attracts tipping fees from food waste haulers and is more profitable than a manure digester. However, it is far more time consuming and farmers must decide if that is the direction they want to go.

While Vermont farmers listen carefully, Canadian farmers describe the major financial benefits, but also the significant time required, to operate large, mixed waste biogas systems. A smaller, largely manure digester produces less financial benefit but can be managed much more easily.

A solids separator processing digestate from the anaerobic digester at a Vermont farm. Odor and pathogen free, it provides more then enough free, fresh, quality animal bedding. An offset to the farm of tens of thousands of dollars annually.

“My cows love sand and I will never switch!”

Are digested bedding solids as good as sand bedding? 

Bedding on sand is understandable. Respected institutions such as Cornell University feel sand is best. But farms should also weigh the additional “cow comfort” that can be purchased when all electricity and bedding costs are eliminated/offset by a digester. For example, more workers can be hired and feed quality improved. View video of experienced nutrient manager discussing digested solids.

In addition, the latest techniques make it possible to bed cows on sand without damaging digesters. For those farms, the best of both worlds?

“When buying a new home, wouldn’t you go to the best realtor you could find? It is the same with an anaerobic digester.”

How to choose the right system for your unique farm. 

There are several proven biogas technology suppliers to choose from and that means you need a knowledgeable consultant, facilitator or developer. This is specially true in the USA where only 265 farm digesters are in operation as opposed to 15,000 in western and central Europe.

Agricultural Digesters LLC provides years of biogas marketing, grant acquisition and development experience. Also, deep knowledge of the financial value of the input (organic waste) and output (digestate).

We are also developing exciting new markets for excess and used bedding solids that increase return on investment. .

Manure management conference presented by Muir for southern New England dairy farmers, the Dept. of Energy, Environmental Protection (DEEP) and others. A visiting specialist from Lancaster County (back right) described the benefits of digester output on cropland in Pennsylvania (video). Two farms later launched biogas systems and two more are under development.