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EPA seeks ideas to recapture waste nutrients from feed

By Aerin Curtis , 08-Dec-2015
Last updated on 08-Dec-2015 at 12:11 GMT2015-12-08T12:11:12Z

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is seeking ideas to help animal producers take economic advantage of wasted nutrients from feed.

The organization is sponsoring its first Nutrient Recycling Challenge competition designed to gather ideas regarding ways to improving nutrient recovery technology.

“Nutrient recovery technologies could offset producers’ costs and generate revenue by extracting and/or transforming the nutrients in manure into products that could be used onsite, transferred, or sold,” the spokesperson told us. “Producers would be incentivized to adopt these technologies if they were economically beneficial.”

Additionally, any created methods for managing waste products could also be beneficial to the environment by reducing greenhouse gas emissions, improving water quality and reducing the costs for transportation or management of the manure, the spokesperson added.

Competition details

The first stage of the competition runs through to January 15, and is open to ideas related to removing nutrients, including nitrogen and phosphorus, from cattle or swine manure in a cost effective manner, and condensing it into a usable product, reported the EPA.

“For phase I, awards will include a total of $20,000 in cash prizes for up to four concepts,” the spokesperson said. “Promising applicants will also be invited to a two-day partnering and investor summit in Washington, DC, and will gain entry to subsequent phases of the challenge with larger awards.”

In the first phase, judges will be grading submissions for “transformative ideas” that can become designs piloted on working farms, the spokesperson said.

Concept submissions can build upon current technology, or be completely new, said agency officials. The program is seeking papers from individuals or groups that are interested in solving the challenge.

Up to four draft solutions will be selected in March to continue to the second of four stages of competitions, said officials. Later stages of the competition look at the design, development of prototypes and eventual demonstration of the plans.

“Although the initial scope of the Nutrient Recycling Challenge is focused on pork and dairy industries, it could be expanded to include other sectors in the future,” said the spokesperson. 

The goals behind the competition include developing ways to manage the tonnage of manure generated by the pork and dairy industries. Annually, livestock producers have to deal with about a billion tons of animal waste, and the nutrient matter it contains.

“Scientists and engineers are already developing technologies that can recover significant percentages of nitrogen and phosphorus from manure for beneficial uses, but these technologies are not, as yet, economically feasible,” an EPA spokesperson said. “Also, the markets for the products the technologies yield are immature or non-existent. Competitions are an exciting way to find solutions by tapping into the ingenuity and creativity of innovators across the globe.”

Additionally, another goal of the project is to connect innovators around the world, the spokesperson said. Options for inventors to work with other researchers have been built into the process.

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