Farmers Look To Turn Cow Manure Into Money

Apr 16, 2018

Credit Squirrel Nation / Flickr

Farmers in Connecticut are looking to turn cow manure into money and, they want your leftover food scraps too. That’s because a burgeoning technology called “anaerobic digestion ” can take that waste, and keep it out of landfills, while turning it into electricity and profit.

You can think of an anaerobic digester as a big metal stomach. Biodegradables go in, get broken down, and turn into energy. Matthew Freund is president of Freund’s Farm in East Canaan. He says anaerobic  technology let him diversify his business. An old unit took in cow manure, and it allowed him to create a new product: biodegradable planters called “CowPots.”

"We’ve got a flow chart of the cow. She backs up to an anaerobic digester, does her business. We digest it and make energy. And then we create the fibers, making the “CowPots.” So it’s full circle - the cow gives us everything," said Freund. 

The planters were popular with gardners, and now, Freund’s farm is hoping to take that business to the next level. They have partnered with with Vanguard Renewables to build a new digestion unit, which could also take in food waste from surrounding towns. It’s all in response to a new state RFP for clean energy. Vanguard would lease the land from Freund and sell the electricity back into the grid. John Hanselman is Vanguard’s CEO.

"The potential, I think, for renewable energy generation from anaerobics is enormous," said Hanselman., 

Vanguard is working another A.D. proposal with Oak Ridge Dairy in Ellington. It currently operates units in Massachusetts.

Connecticut is expected to announce if it’s selected the A.D. projects in the coming months. 

This report comes from the New England News Collaborative, eight public media companies including Rhode Island Public Radio joining together to tell stories of a changing region, with support from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.