By Dave Brumbaugh
The consumer knows that dairy cows are the source of many delicious and nutritious foods, including milk, cheese, and ice cream. The farmer knows that they also produce a tremendous amount of manure—thousands of gallons daily on even the smallest dairy farms.
When not handled properly, the manure’s greenhouse gasses and bacteria are harmful to the environment—and the odor isn’t too pleasant, either.
A Ferndale company has stepped up (and not in!) to those problematic matters. Regenis has made the processing of cow pies and other organic wastes into an environmental success story, creating anaerobic digesters to generate renewable energy, reduce greenhouse gasses, and virtually eliminate fecal coliform bacteria, while dramatically lessening their odor.
“With the digester and the DAF installations, Edaleen has one of the most advanced manure-treatment facilities of any dairy in the United States. Our next main focus is making clean water…”
—Eric Powell, Business Development Director, Regenis
Andgar Corporation, located in the Grandview Industrial Park just north of Ferndale off I-5, began making anaerobic digesters in 2004, with dairy farms as a target market. Four years ago, Andgar created a separate division—Regenis—to manufacture digesters. The offspring has constructed 13 anaerobic digesters and also operates and/or maintains digesters for some customers.
“They are not all on dairy farms,” said Eric Powell, Business Development Director for Regenis, “but all of them do process some amount of dairy manure. Most also process other organic waste, such as pre-consumer food waste from various food processors.”
The environmental benefits of the digesters, like the product they deal with, cover a lot of ground:
Electrical generation: A dozen of the 13 Regenis projects produce renewable electricity with a total capacity exceeding 15 megawatts an hour (MWh)—enough to power more than 9,000 homes. Unlike other forms of renewable energy that produce electricity only when the wind is blowing or the sun is shining, anaerobic digesters can make electricity 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, except for short periods of time when the engine is down for maintenance.
Greenhouse-gas reduction: Methane, a natural emission from cow manure, is 22 times more harmful to the environment than carbon monoxide, according to scientific studies. Digesters reduce the amount of methane emitted into the environment.
Bacteria Reduction: Digesters reduce the fecal coliform in manure by 99.9%, allowing dairy farmers to use separated and dried manure (called digester fiber) as bedding for the cows, rather than having to purchase sawdust or use sand. The result is a significant cost reduction for a dairy. The farms then sell any excess fiber to soil companies that use it as a replacement for peat moss. Also, farmers store processed dairy manure without fecal coliform in lagoons on their farms until they can safely apply to crops for irrigation and fertilizer.
Regenis is in the process of expanding beyond the manufacturing, servicing, and operating of digesters. Last year, the company installed a Dissolved Air Flotation (DAF) unit at Edaleen Dairy’s home-base facility north of Lynden that treats manure even more after it’s gone through the digester process.
“This system removes more than 85% of the phosphorus and roughly 35% of the nitrogen,” Powell said. “It concentrates those nutrients into a solid that can be hauled to fields farther away at a lower cost. With the digester and the DAF installations, Edaleen has one of the most advanced manure-treatment facilities of any dairy in the United States.”
Potential customers, other than dairy farms, include swine and poultry farms, food-waste producers, composting facilities, municipalities, breweries, and anyone who has a large volume of organic waste. “We want to be an agricultural wastewater-treatment provider and help our dairy, food-processing, and other agriculture customers with solutions,” Powell said.
Next on the broad horizon for Regenis, as a stalwart model for environmental stewardship? Powell said: “…Making clean water from a variety of agricultural wastes, such as dairy manure.”
Andgar Corporation (est. 1973) stands very high on the Business Pulse annual Top 100 Privately-Owned Companies in Whatcom County year in and year out, with divisions in agriculture waste solutions (Regenis), commercial metal fabrication, food processing, and residential HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning). The company name stems from co-owners Andy Mellema and Gary Van Loo.
Their statement of purpose contains unlimited vision with some unordinary phrasing. In part: “Our goal…highest quality products and superior service at a fair cost….through the application of Biblical principle….carry on Andy and Gary’s values of honesty, reliability, and professionalism….
“We may be from a small town, but we look forward to bringing you into our growing family of satisfied customers in NW Washington and across the globe.”