Processing Magazine

Innovative technology allows Vermont farm to manage wastewater efficiently

March 19, 2013

Waste management and wastewater treatment are two of the biggest challenges that food manufacturers and processors have to tackle on a day-to-day basis. Finding a solution that is both cost-effective and environmentally friendly is not easy, but apparently a Vermont-based farm has managed to do this and is reaping the benefits.

Located in Greensboro, Vt., Jasper Hill Farm has 45 cows and produces dairy products that have won numerous awards, which has made it one of the most recognized manufacturers of artisan cheese in North America. The farm makes its own cheese, as well as traditional Cheddar in collaboration with Cabot Creamery, which is successfully sold across the country.

Recently, the farm was fitted with an innovative technology that rolls several biological treatment systems into one piece of equipment, called the Green Machine. It allows Jasper Hill Farm to manage its waste, including the manure, whey and wash-water that result from milking cows and making cheese, in a sustainable way, Food Processing website reported.

The Green Machine is basically a combination of waste treatment, nutrient management and energy recovery strategies all put together into a closed-loop system. The system relies on composting for the manure solids and anaerobic digestion for the first-phase liquids treatment. An advanced botanical system (ABS) takes care of the second-phase liquids. Compost that is produced is used for nutrient management and is applied to pastures, whereas the treated water from the ABS irrigates pastures to extend the grazing season. The technology also recovers energy from composting to heat the liquid waste treatment system, and methane gas from the anaerobic digestion tanks to provide energy for the creamery's boiler.

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James Coe, architect and project manager for Jasper Hill Farm, explained that the technology allows the farm to return nutrients directly into the soil without causing any negative effect on the environment and without the risk of passing pathogens into the cattle. The Green Machine can give staff full control over the quality of soil, grass and cows, so that they can continue to produce the their award-winning cheeses, he added.

Coe commented that the project can be easily replicated and scaled-up for bigger farms when necessary. Jasper Hill Farm has a laboratory that gives employees a better understanding of the nutrient and energy pathways on the farm, thus facilitating improvement and refining of production processes. He stated that the data gathered from lab tests and analyses could be helpful when applying for future grant funding.

For designing and implementing the project, Jasper Hill Farm worked together with another Vermont company, EcoSolutions, which is one of the very few businesses that provide wastewater treatment for food manufacturing firms. Such companies have enjoyed a thriving market in recent years, thanks to increased interest from food processors looking for alternatives to direct release into waterways and publicly owned treatment works systems.