Seven-year-old James Hoare is the future of his family farm in England, and one of his jobs is poking at the future of the farm… in the form of cow dung in the barn.
“It’s a form of liquid gold, isn’t it?” said his mother, Katie Hoare, who helps run the rental operation. “Because you can’t do much without slurry, it’s an incredible form of fertilizer.”
“Slurry”, known as liquid beef patty, powers the farm. Once collected, cow waste is pumped into a lagoon where harmful methane is captured instead of being released into the atmosphere. Two tarps cover the lagoon, first collecting raw methane emitted from cow waste. It is then processed and pumped under a second tarp for storage to produce gas.
Chris Mann, CEO of Bennaman, says that the longer waste is in storage, the more methane it loses. “So, the sooner we pump it out, the better,” he said.
Scientists estimate that livestock is responsible for 14 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, there are approximately 2 million cattle farms in the United States. Bennaman says their process can work with any farm that has animal waste.
“In a day, we can produce half a ton (of gas),” Mann said. That’s enough to drive a special New Holland tractor for about a week.
“We call it T6180 methane power, but my kids call it the cow fart tractor,” says Mark Howell, New Holland global product manager for alternative fuels.
Howell said livestock could be a solution to global warming and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
“Dairy and cows have been kind of demonized for destroying the ozone layer, and that’s completely wrong, because really what we’re doing here is we’re promoting dairy as a way to reduce fossil fuel use,” he added. Farms no longer have to buy fuel to run their machinery.
Mann said his company’s process reduces Hoare’s farm’s carbon footprint by about 75 percent.
Currently, the farm is producing more gas than it needs, so the local county is buying some of the carbon-friendly fuel to help the community. “Biomethane can actually power our road repair vehicles,” said Cornwall councilor Martin Alvey.
The next step is to build a generator so the farm can go completely off the grid.
“The milk, the light, the whole kabang, it’s all gone,” said Katie Hoare.
It’s safe to say that he and his family have a whole new appreciation for cow waste.
“When you were in the barn you cursed (the poo) and moved it around, now you still curse a little bit, but you only think of the best, don’t you, because it’s doing amazing things,” he said.
If all the waste in the United Kingdom were used, New Holland and Bennaman predict they could supply about 10 percent of the country’s energy needs.
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