Farm Waste to Energy: A Sustainable Solution for Small-Scale Farms

EPA Grant Number: SU834751
Title: Farm Waste to Energy: A Sustainable Solution for Small-Scale Farms
Investigators: Grimberg, Stefan J. , Rogers, Shane , Welsh, Joseph R.
Institution: Clarkson University
EPA Project Officer: Nolt-Helms, Cynthia
Phase: II
Project Period: August 15, 2010 through August 14, 2012
Project Amount: $74,544
RFA: P3 Awards: A National Student Design Competition for Sustainability Focusing on People, Prosperity and the Planet - Phase 2 (2010) Recipients Lists
Research Category: Pollution Prevention/Sustainable Development , P3 Challenge Area - Agriculture , P3 Challenge Area - Energy , P3 Awards , Sustainability


Dairy manure management represents a major challenge at dairy farms. Manure contains pathogens, high nutrient concentrations and may contribute significantly to the production of greenhouse gas emissions. The problems associated with manure are exacerbated by the rate at which it is produced on farms of all sizes, but is especially true for small farms that lack the technology to adequately treat dairy manure. Currently, the most common use of dairy manure is fertilizer where it is spread over crop fields to increase their yield. In order to maximize the fertilizer value of manure, manure is preferably applied only in the initial growing season. Manure storage, results in the emission of significant methane and odor emissions. Treating manure via anaerobic digestion (AD) represents a viable opportunity to reduce green house gas emissions, to generate renewable energy and to reduce odor associated with manure storage. While AD has been promoted by the USEPA for large farms no solutions are available for small farm systems.


The objective of this project is to examine the feasibility of using small-scale anaerobic digesters to increase the efficiency of waste-stream management and the utilization of renewable energy, decrease emissions, and to improve the economic feasibility of small-scale farming of livestock.


Phase II of this proposed anaerobic digestion project will build on the experimental research conducted as part of Phase I. The basis for the continuation of this project’s experimental research will be a scaled-down version of the proposed reactor to validate results obtained in the laboratory and to generate representative data needed for an economic analysis. A more detailed evaluation of the leachate system and effluent composition is essential to quantify its impact on overall system performance. Similarly, the effluent composition will be evaluated with regards to nutrient composition, mass reduction, and utilization.

Expected Results:

Phase II involves the implementation of a model digester at the Cornell Cooperative Extension Farm in Canton, NY, where the public and students can observe and evaluate the performance of individual components as well as the overall efficiency of the system. Given a prototype unit students will collect data which will be incorporated in a detailed study of the proposed system. With this study a complete business plan for an optimized system will be presented to local farmers.

Supplemental Keywords:

anaerobic digestion, biogas, digester, feedstock, hydraulic residence time, leachate, and reactor,

Relevant Websites:

Phase 1 Abstract
Phase 1 Final Report

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2011
  • Final

  • P3 Phase I:

    Farm Waste to Energy: A Sustainable Solution for Small-Scale Farms  | Final Report