The Maryland Department of Agriculture has awarded more than $2.9 million in grants from its Animal Waste Technology Fund that aim to increase environmental benefits for chicken and dairy operations.
The grants were awarded as part of the state’s commitment to help farmers improve how they manage animal manure, protect natural resources, and pursue clean and renewable energy sources.
“Maryland has a nationwide reputation for its commitment to sustainable agriculture and has been an early adopter of many established best practices,” said Secretary Joe Bartenfelder. “The Animal Waste Technology Fund gives us the opportunity to support and evaluate new technologies that capitalize on agriculture’s potential as a renewable energy source while providing new management options for poultry, livestock, and equine operations.”
According to a MD Dept. of Agriculture press release, the awardees include:
Earth Care, LLC: Poultry Litter Gasification and Dryer Facility
A $2.24 million grant was awarded to Earthcare, LLC, to construct a gasification and dryer facility in Wicomico County that will serve the Lower Eastern Shore. The facility uses high heat to convert poultry litter—a mixture of manure and bedding material—into Ecochar, a charcoal-like product that can be used as a soil amendment to capture and store carbon from the atmosphere, reduce nutrient runoff and provide soil health benefits.
When fully operational, the facility will convert up to 30,000 tons of litter into 4,100 tons of Ecochar per year. As an added benefit, the heat generated by the facility can be recycled to dry additional poultry litter, which can be used as a pathogen-free bedding material for chicken houses. Research and market development will be performed to assess the feasibility and cost-effectiveness of both products. Project construction is expected to take two years. With 11 gasification and dryer systems located across the U.S. and abroad, Earthcare, LLC, has extensive experience with this technology. This will be the company’s first project in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.
Sustainable Chesapeake: Dairy Manure Injection and Anaerobic Digester
Sustainable Chesapeake was awarded a $725,267 grant to expand the use of manure injection technology at dairy farms in Western Maryland. Manure injection uses special equipment to work the manure below the soil surface while minimizing soil disturbance. The technology reduces ammonia losses to the atmosphere, preserves beneficial surface residue and protects local waterways from runoff. The grant will provide incentives for two custom manure applicators to inject manure into approximately 2,000 acres of land located on three farms in Frederick and Carroll counties. Project partners include the Maryland and Virginia Milk Producers Cooperative, Giant Food and the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay.
In addition to the manure injection equipment, grant funds will also be used to provide additional equipment for an anaerobic digester installed at Kilby Farm, a 400-head dairy cattle operation in Cecil County. The anaerobic digester converts manure from the dairy operation into a reliable year-round power supply for the farm. The new equipment will improve the digester’s ability to generate heat during colder months and improve the farm’s management of manure resources.
The Animal Waste Technology Fund provides seed funding to companies that demonstrate innovative technologies on farms and alternative strategies for managing animal manure. These technologies may generate energy from animal manure, reduce on-farm waste streams, or repurpose manure by creating marketable fertilizer products.
Funding for the program is provided by the Maryland Energy Administration and the Chesapeake and Atlantic Coastal Bays Trust Fund. To date, the program has awarded $10.7 million in grants to approved projects.