“I can’t imagine anyone who would not think of this as a good thing, generating high quality and highly available energy from manure and replacing a commercially mined and processed fertilizer with recycled fertilizer. Everyone’s gonna love that idea. So we need to shift some of that money from the traditional energy and nutrient sources over to the farmers.” ~ Steve Rowe, CEO, Newtrient
Steve Rowe is the CEO of Newtrient, a company that helps farmers take the nutrients that are part of the agricultural cycle and use them in new ways. Newtrient’s mission is to reduce the environmental footprint of dairy farming and make it economically viable to do so.
Nothing is wasted in nature. Anytime an organism produces waste there is some other organism waiting in line to use it. Farmers have been harnessing that natural system to recycle manure since the birth of agriculture. It’s the world’s oldest circular economy. Now there are more ways than ever to recycle, reuse or upcycle components from manure.
Renewable fertilizer from manure
Nitrogen fertilizer is produced by pulling nitrogen gas out of the atmosphere. Phosphorus is also an important nutrient for crops. It’s mined and transported all over the world and it’s in short supply. Producing and distributing nitrogen and phosphorus fertilizers requires a lot of energy and creates a lot of greenhouse gases. Manure is a fantastic fertilizer that contains nitrogen, phosphorus and organic carbon and it’s better for the soil microbes than chemical fertilizers. But it’s not very convenient to store it, haul it and apply it. Newtrient works to promote technologies that solve those problems and make more valuable fertilizers from manure.
Renewable energy from manure
Manure can be fed into a methane digester to produce renewable natural gas. That gas can be burned in a generator to produce a continuous on-demand flow of power. That makes it a good complement to solar and wind power, which aren’t always available. But methane digesters are expensive and take a long time to pay for themselves. Newtrient is working to reduce that obstacle.
Environmentally-friendly fiber from manure
The fiber in manure can be used in products like paper, cardboard, house siding and planting pots. Newtrient is working to develop a market for those products and help startup companies that want to find new uses for fiber from manure. That helps to save trees.
A circular economy for manure
Finding new ways to use manure creates a circular economy where everything has a purpose and new resources do not need to be extracted from the earth. This repurposing can help create new revenue streams for farmers so that they can provide even more environmental services than they do now.
“We need to set up better economic signals between the urban and rural communities, which will, I believe re-knit the relationship between urban and rural the way it was, perhaps when I was a kid, when everybody knew a farmer or everyone was just one generation off the farm. Now people are very, very disconnected. We have many, many more foodies, but far fewer people who understand where food comes from.” ~ Steve Rowe
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