Falk College professor of Food Studies, Rick Welsh, and Stefan Grimberg and Shane Rogers, two environmental engineers from Clarkson University, have received a competitive grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute for Food and Agriculture to develop educational and outreach materials related to smaller-scale anaerobic digesters.

In the U.S., anaerobic digesters have been seen as larger farm technologies since the more manure produced on a farm, the greater the amount of biogas produced too. This biogas is captured and burned to produce heat that can be used to keep parlors warm or to produce steam to turn a turbine and produce electricity. Excess electricity can be sold.

Earlier research by Welsh and colleagues found widespread interest among smaller-scale dairy farmers in New York State for digester technology. And digesters are smaller-farm technologies in many nations around the world including Asia and Central America. The Clarkson engineers found that adding biomass from sources such as spoiled silage or hay and even kitchen waste through a leachate system in conjunction with a smaller and cheaper design, made smaller-scale digesters economically viable for smaller dairy farms (fewer than 200 milking cows).

The team will use the current grant funds to establish an educational and extension site at the Cornell Cooperative Extension Learning Farm in St. Lawrence County, New York. Welsh will conduct focus group and individual interviews with farmers viewing the pilot digester and attending informational sessions. The purpose is to measure the effects on knowledge about digesters as well as generate interest in this form of alternative distributed energy.