Published 6 months ago.
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The benefits of anaerobic digestion for recycling various kinds of organic farm waste are far-reaching — including waste management, renewable energy generation, GHG reduction, economic advantages and agricultural sustainability.
Vanguard Renewables’ Farm Powered®
recycles organic waste — mainly, food and beverage waste from the manufacturing
sector and dairy cow manure — into renewable natural
(RNG). It’s a pretty simple process: Think of it as a giant CrockPot that is
full of methanogens, which are naturally found in cow manure, that gobbles up
the food waste and the manure and creates biogas. That biogas is then cleaned,
upgraded and becomes renewable natural gas — a drop-in replacement for
fossil-based natural gas and a powerful tool to fight climate change.
Food waste is a fact of life, whether it be at home or during production. If a
cookie manufacturer added baking powder instead of baking soda to its batter,
that whole industrial batch of cookies would need to be discarded; that’s a lot
of cookies that would be sent to the landfill instead of feeding those in need.
For dairy farmers, manure presents some smelly challenges. As with food
production and food waste, you can’t have dairy cows without manure. But there
are several ways that farmers and food and beverage companies alike can handle
their unavoidable waste. We believe that recycling them together through
anaerobic digestion provides a sustainable solution for both.
There are many benefits of recycling food and crop waste and cow manure through
anaerobic digestion — creating positive impacts on waste management, renewable
energy generation, greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction and sustainable agriculture.
Food and other organic farm waste and cow manure both present waste-management
challenges. When it comes to manure from dairy cows, The USDA Natural Resources
Conservation Service estimates that “the manure
from 200 milking cows produces as much nitrogen as sewage from a community of
5,000 to 10,000 people.” While this manure is most commonly used as a beneficial
source of nutrients for crops, inclusion of an anaerobic digester reduces
emissions associated with manure storage and generates renewable energy.
Improper disposal of organic waste leads to harmful methane
and wasted resources. However, through anaerobic digestion, these organic
materials can be efficiently converted into renewable energy and valuable
byproducts — such as a digestate that can be used as a low-carbon and
nutrient-dense fertilizer; and the solids, which become bedding for the herd.
Biogas is a key product of anaerobic digestion, comprising primarily methane and
carbon dioxide. By capturing and utilizing biogas as a renewable energy source,
we can reduce reliance on fossil fuels, combat climate change and lower GHG
emissions. The methane recovered from organic waste is a potent greenhouse
and preventing its release through anaerobic digestion significantly mitigates
its environmental impact.
RNG can power homes, businesses, and even entire communities, reducing the
dependence on fossil-fuel-based electricity. It can also be used for heat
production in industrial processes, space heating or water heating. By
displacing conventional, fossil-based heating fuels with RNG, we can reduce the
carbon footprint of these applications — contributing to a more sustainable
Recently, AstraZeneca and Vanguard Renewables
entered a transformative
to enable the pharmaceutical giant to fuel all of its US operations with RNG by
2026; Waste Dive
called the partnership as the “largest open-market RNG deal yet.” Partnerships
like this could be a game-changer for companies that are trying to reach their
net-zero targets, by decarbonizing their energy load.
RNG can also be upgraded to biomethane, a renewable natural gas, which can be
used as a low-carbon fuel for vehicles. This presents an opportunity to
decarbonize transportation and reduce GHGs in the transportation
Dairy cow manure can be effectively managed through anaerobic digestion.
Digestate, the liquid left after anaerobic digestion, is a nutrient-rich
material that can be used as a fertilizer. Applying digestate to croplands
replenishes soil nutrients, reduces the need for synthetic fertilizers, promotes
and minimizes nutrient runoff, which can pollute water bodies.
The digestate can be another source of cost savings for our farmers since they
no longer have to rely on traditional fertilizers. Many of Vanguard’s host farms
have seen an increase in crop yields, which they believe is from the use of the
digestate. Additionally, the solids that come from the pressing of the digestate
can be used as bedding for the farmer’s herd, which is yet another cost savings
for host farms. And minimizing waste and enhancing overall resource efficiency
contributes to a circular
The benefits of anaerobic digestion for recycling various kinds of organic farm
waste are far-reaching — encompassing waste management, renewable energy
generation, GHG reduction, economic advantages and agricultural sustainability.
By adopting anaerobic-digestion systems, farmers can contribute to a more
resource-efficient future — where waste is minimized, renewable energy is
created, and agriculture operates in harmony with the environment. It is crucial
for stakeholders — including food producers, dairy farmers, waste-management
entities and policymakers — to collaborate and invest in anaerobic-digestion
infrastructure to harness the full potential of these organic waste streams.
Published Aug 18, 2023 8am EDT / 5am PDT / 1pm BST / 2pm CEST
This article, produced in cooperation with the Sustainable Brands editorial team, has been paid for by one of our sponsors.