Thursday, September 3, 2009

CAFO Composting - Fabric Buildings

CAFOs, or confined animal feeding operations, are increasingly turning to composting for nutrient management programs (voluntarily, or sometimes mandated by the government). Two facilities I've spoken with recently are using fabric buildings to cover their composting operations. Fabric structures are inexpensive, corrosion resistant, and provide natural light and ventilation.

Terra-Gro is a composting operation located at a CAFO in Peach Bottom, Pennsylvania. “We take in starchy potato waste from a nearby potato chip factory, and mix it with manure and crop leftovers,” says Loren Martin of Terra-Gro. “We compost the mixture in 6-foot by 12-foot wide windrows, housed in fabric structures.” Martin has several of these buildings, each 60 by 400 feet long. “Because we compost in the fabric buildings, the product is very consistent and attractive to higher end markets," he says.

Another CAFO using fabric
buildings is Laurelbrook Farm in East Cannan, Connecticut. It currently composts dairy manure from a heard of 830 cows, mixed with crop residues and horse bedding from nearby farms. Laurelbrook has four fabric buildings made by ClearSpan: one for tipping, two for active composting, and one for curing the finished compost. The farmers are looking to accept food wastes, and are also planning a community anaerobic digester with nearby farms to produce renewable energy prior to composting.

Although CAFOs are often unsustainable, these two farms are working hard to improve there environmental footprint.

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