New strategies cut waste, harvest energy from hog operations

Banff, Alta. - A profitable swine production system with zero waste. A "biogas" plant that uses manure energy to fuel 900 households. New hog operations that cut water use by 50 percent.
calendar icon 23 January 2003
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All are within grasp for Western Canada's expanding swine industry, say speakers at the Banff Pork Seminar, held January 14-17 at the Banff Centre. Approximately 850 pork producers, researchers, extension and education specialists, as well as agribusiness service and supply representatives, attended the Banff Pork Seminar, the leading educational event of the western Canadian pork industry.

"Manure and water management are important challenges facing the swine industry," says Dr. John Feddes, a professor of animal housing at the University of Alberta, who chaired a session on innovative manure and water management strategies for hog production. "The good news is new technologies and strategies have emerged that can help provide solutions. We need to look at the opportunities to apply these technologies in Western Canada."

The session featured perspectives from three international experts, including Dr. Theo van Kempen of North Carolina State University, Stefan Michalski of ECB Enviro in Germany and Clarence Froese of DGH Engineering Ltd. in Manitoba.

Van Kempen outlined a "RE-cycle" system for hog barns, designed to convert manure and effluent into value added products. Specifically, the system converts manure into energy and ash - the energy can be captured in the form of electricity or a liquid fuel such as diesel or ethanol, and the sterile ash can be used as a mineral supplement in feed. The system also extracts nitrogen from effluent, which can be processed into commercial grade nitrogen fertilizer.

The system is based on a modified swine housing design in which an angled conveyor belt is used to separate manure and effluent as it leaves the barn. This quick separation and removal reduces emissions, boosts air quality and gets potential waste into a form where it can be easily converted into an energy and nutrient resource. "The components that make up the RE-cycle system are all based on existing technology and can be used independently of each other, so there's lots of flexibility," says van Kempen. "The key is to produce a dry manure stream by separating the feces from urine - that's why the angled conveyor belt is central to the system."

Michalski, Chairman of Berlin-based ECB Enviro, reported on the company's progress in developing and operating biogas facilities, which convert hog manure into energy for heat and electricity. As a case study, he sited the ECB Enviro's first biogas plant on the German island of Ruegan, started in 1997, which today produces 3.8 Million cubic metres of biogas per year - sold as heat energy to nearby homes and used to power the plant itself - and 95,000 tonnes per year of fertilizer for field application. ECB Enviro now operates more than 10 biogas plants in Germany and has conducted a pilot project in Lethbridge to investigate the feasibility of developing similar plants in Canada.

"A waste management system that takes advantage of biogas technology is a promising solution for swine operations to increase productivity while decreasing pressures on the environment," says Michalski.

On another front, DHG Engineering's Clarence Froese placed water use efficiency under the microscope. Water conservation is essential for running an efficient swine operation, particularly since over-watering of livestock results in higher manure levels, he says, but many of today's water use standards are based on outdated figures. A study by DHG Engineering concluded typical western Canadian operations could cut water use 50 percent by identifying and eliminating inefficiencies. "The growth-finish phase of production appears to offer the greatest potential for significant and immediate savings," says Froese.

The Banff Pork Seminar, held annually since 1972, is one of the premier pork seminars in North America. It is coordinated by the Department of Agricultural, Food and Nutritional Sciences, University of Alberta, in cooperation with Alberta Pork, Alberta Agriculture, Food and Rural Development and other pork industry representatives. Full program and proceedings of the 2003 Banff Pork Seminar are available on the new Seminar Web site,

Source: Banff Pork Seminar - 22nd January 2003

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