Growing Ideas: Sweeter smelling farms

LWR frees farmers from the shackles of manure

Farmers have been using manure as a fertilizer for thousands of years. But modern farming produces a lot of the stuff, requiring effective manure management. Livestock Water Recycling is a system that breaks down manure into water and fertilizers.

Manure is a stinker for livestock farmers. They use it to fertilize crops, but regulations govern when and how much they can spread. They therefore need to store the excess, and safely: otherwise farm workers risk exposure to toxic gases or even drowning. During storage manure’s nutrient composition can change, which affects yields and increases run-off and groundwater contamination.

“We have a vision of eradicating manure lagoons around the world,” says Lisa Fast, Marketing and Communications Specialist at Livestock Water Recycling (LWR). “Lagoons are an antiquated form of manure management. We want to free farmers from the shackles of manure.”

Mainly water

With 15 years of experience designing and manufacturing systems to treat contaminated groundwater, LWR caught wind (excuse the pun) of the manure issue in 2009. Their expertise in water treatment enabled them to create a system that allows farmers to extract water and nutrients from manure. “When you think about manure, you probably don’t think about water, but in fact, 90% of manure is water,” says Fast. The LWR system extracts up to 75% of the water from manure while concentrating and segregating nutrients.

“Our system can be installed on any dairy, hog, or anaerobic digester operation that produces liquid manure,” Fast continues. The manure can be treated right out of the barn or pumped in from a lagoon or other storage system. As manure liquids flow through the system, solids and fine particles are separated and extracted. The result is clean, potable water, a dry solid fertilizer that is rich in both phosphorus and organic nitrogen, and a concentrated ammonium and potassium liquid fertilizer. The system is automated, so all the farmer needs to do is initiate the treatment.

“We want to eradicate manure lagoons around the world”

- Lisa Fast, Marketing and Communications Specialist at Livestock Water Recycling

Convincing lenders

For LWR, convincing farmers is less of an issue than convincing lenders. “Producers are having a very difficult time accessing financing to purchase our manure treatment technology,” says Fast. “We are currently working with a company that offers equipment leasing, but project financing has been very difficult as many lenders won’t fund new technologies.”

This is despite the fact that the LWR system offers farmers many benefits. Firstly, it reduces the need for lagoon storage. Secondly, it provides a renewable supply of clean water that can be used for irrigation and cleaning barns, thus increasing animal comfort and potentially improving milk production. These are next to the free concentrated liquid nutrient fertilizer and solid fertilizer the system produces, which allow for strategic nutrient application to increase crop yields. Robinway Dairy in Wisconsin, for instance, increased its corn yields by three to five tons per acre (0.4 hectare) when it installed the system.

There are clear gains for the environment, too. Farms reduce the amount of well water that they use, avoid groundwater pollution and can reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by over 80%. This figure is based on post-treatment lab testing compared to traditional manure storage.

LWR was part of Rabobank’s second Terra cohort for piloting start-up projects in the fall of 2017. It is now balancing the roll out of advanced digital and automation technology with expansion in the US and Europe. Read more about LWR in our digizine.

Meet Ross Thurston, President of Livestock Water Recycling.