"Environment" research area

A New Method for Treating Agricultural Wastewater

Primary Investigator - Roger RuanPrimary InvestigatorR. Roger Ruan
Co-InvestigatorsPaul Chen; Neil Anderson
Industry PartnersForsman Farms; Minnesga Inc.; Holistic Health Farms
Award Type: Demonstration Grant

Problem: Minnesota is among the top producers of poultry, dairy, and swine in the United States. These animal production facilities create large volumes of animal waste, which necessitates proper management. Traditional management methods include applying manure as fertilizer and using open lagoons for storage and natural digestion. These methods, however, no longer meet environmental protection requirements and end up creating more environmental contamination issues, such as unwanted nitrogen runoff from fields and gas emissions from lagoons. 

Solution: MnDRIVE researchers have developed a scalable technology system to treat agricultural wastewater, while also producing valuable byproducts. The treatment system relies on microbes that digest organic materials to produce nitrogen fertilizer and methane gas. In addition, the system uses microalgae that extract nutrients from manure which can then be used to produce animal feed and biofuels. Lastly, mineral solutions will be applied to wastewater to further extract pollutants before being released into the environment. 

Impact: Sustainable and circular management solutions to deal with Minnesota’s animal waste that not only meet environmental regulations but also offer new revenue streams would be hugely valuable. This project will demonstrate the ability of new technology and a system to remove excess nutrients and other pollutants while offering value-added products. Successful demonstration would go a long way towards convincing the animal industry that sustainable management can benefit the environment and their bottom line.