The concept of sustainability is virtually unavoidable in today’s world. Less open space, fewer natural resources, more mouths to feed, and a number of state and federal regulations to navigate. But even under these circumstances, Bio Town Ag, Inc. (BTA) is finding ways to improve the way we produce food, fuel, and fiber, all while revolutionizing sustainability in agriculture.
BTA is a multigenerational farm located in Reynolds, IN, a rural community, where farming is a way of life. BTA's farm operations consist of cattle and hog production, which also doubles as a Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs). Its cattle and hog production, combined with the neighboring row crops, are a microcosm of the area's agricultural interests and resources.
BTA’s mission is to explore new frontiers in agricultural sustainability and creatively deploy technologies to eliminate the environmental impacts of past agricultural production processes. In other words, BTA is transforming the farming industry with their forward-thinking approach.
Brian Furrer, President of Bio Town Ag, recognized the potential issues with the current agricultural sustainability model and knew something had to change. "There are currently seven billion people in the world, and it's projected to be nine billion by 2045," Furrer said. "We needed to find ways to improve the how mankind produces food, fuel, and fiber."
But this is a tall order – especially because BTA is a CAFO. And as a CAFO, BTA is subject to numerous federal and state laws and regulations to safely address related environmental and management concerns. However, compliance with that framework was not enough for BTA. Instead, BTA saw opportunity within the CAFO framework to produce livestock in a manner capable of meeting the growing demand of the marketplace and creating additional marketable products and resources—all while reducing its environmental impact on neighbors and the surrounding area.
Put simply, BTA developed and installed a closed loop sustainable farming system. At BTA, nothing goes to waste. And not only are all waste products created by BTA used, but it helps others reduce their environmental impact.
The first step of the process is compiling the animal waste produced by BTA’s farming operations and mixing it together with other waste product from local manufacturers and businesses. Then, the waste is put into a sealed anaerobic digester -- BTA's is about the size of a football field. The anaerobic digester is essentially a manmade cow’s stomach which breaks down the organic material of the waste. The mix then liquefies, and with the right ratio of ingredients, heat, and time, it all gets broken down into methane gas, fertilizer, animal bedding, and water. The fertilizer and water can be used throughout neighboring row crop operations, and the animal bedding is easily used on-site for the livestock. But the methane gas?
It's is actually one of the most important pieces of the puzzle to make a productive waste-free CAFO. The gas burned runs six generators that produce up to 6.294 megawatts of electricity per hour. That electricity not only meets BTA's on-site electricity needs, but also gets delivered to NIPSCO to provide renewable electricity to northern Indiana residents. This electricity generation, fueled by the livestock waste, produces enough electricity to meet the needs of over 5,000 homes.
The closed loop sustainable farming system not only benefits BTA, but the local residents and surrounding communities, too.
The waste collected from nearby manufacturers and businesses would typically get tossed into a landfill, but instead is being put to good use. The smell that typically comes with running a traditional CAFO is reduced due to the airtight seal of the anaerobic digester. Fertilizer, one of the byproducts of this process, is sold to local farmers who reap the benefits of the micronutrients not found in other NPK fertilizers. The impact of the greenhouse gases produced by the operation are mitigated. All of these benefits are achieved while providing renewable electricity for over 20% of the county in which it is located.
Though BTA is just getting started, they've experienced positive results. "We're seeing our sustainability efforts having a positive impact on the local environment, as well as with producers increasing their profitability by way of recycling," Furrer said of their efforts.
In all, it’s easy to see why a sustainability model, specifically in terms of agriculture production, is beneficial from an economic, social, and environmental standpoint. Be sure to keep up with BTA as they continue to reshape the farming industry.
At Gutwein Law, we exist to help the most innovative companies in the Midwest continue to grow and succeed through business-minded legal advice. Think your company is forward-thinking like BTA? Drop us a line. We'd love to work with you to help you achieve your goals.