An assignment to treat manure in Alberta is the turning point for Livestock Water Recycling
From waste to water
by Stephanie Sparks | Photography by Bryce Meyer
Recipient: Business, Livestock Water Recycling Inc.[slideshow]
Before a shift in its business focus in 2009, Livestock Water Recycling Inc. (LWR) built process skids for water treatment. On the side though, it performed investigative work with manure, seeking an effective method for treating it. The Calgary-based company hadn’t had an opportunity to test any of its manure treatment ideas until 2006 when they worked with an engineering company in the United States. At that time, LWR was asked to handle a stinky project in Canada at an Alberta hog farm.
LWR put its own technology to new use – an innovative strategy that was previously untested – and the company built a process chain that treated the water so successfully it was able to produce clean drinking water. Six months later, the company had developed a working process and set about making it more economical. Throughout 2007 and 2008, LWR designed and built a prototype system for confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs), one whose operators could expect to see an approximately 20 per cent return on investment. Since 2009, LWR has been using a more sophisticated implementation of the prototype.
The patented seven-stage water recycling system is “highly proprietary,” but the process in the simplest of terms turns manure into fertilizer and clean water (about 70 per cent of the original material recovered is water that is safe for drinking). Using chemical and mechanical treatments, LWR’s system technology removes and reduces solids, phosphorous, ammonia, nitrogen and potassium in the wastewater that comes from livestock operations. This not only prevents harmful contaminants and pathogens from contaminating the groundwater following manure land spreading, but it produces dry fertilizer (for composting), liquid fertilizer (for use or sale), concentrated phosphorous sludge and, refreshingly, clean water.
Saving money and generating revenues are just two of the benefits for CAFOs that have installed LWR’s technology. The liquid fertilizer can also be reused or sold, the clean water end-product can reduce water use by up to 80 per cent and transportation costs for manure solids decrease because the process effectively concentrates manure, allowing operators to transport more of it further away for sale and distribution.
And because manure is supplied in the summer months, CAFOs need to store manure through the winter. This requires bigger lagoons, which are more expensive and heavily regulated.
“What our system is doing is getting rid of those lagoons,” says technical manager Gareth Jenkins. By eliminating the manure storage lagoons, LWR’s technology also reduces complaints from neighbours and the community about the odours associated with the storage lagoons and manure spreading.
The water recycling system, for which LWR received its Emerald Award in business, not only saves money but helps prevent potential damage to the environment. Because plants are capable of absorbing only so much phosphorous, a significant component of manure, excess amounts are known to cause algae blooms in lakes and rivers. The solution for CAFOs is to remove the phosphorous and apply the manure to regions that it hasn’t been applied to before. LWR’s system removes the ammonia, phosphorous and potash from nutrient-rich soils and takes them to soils that have a shortage of these nutrients.
LWR finds that its biggest opportunities are south of the border because many large CAFOs in the U.S. have more manure produced than land available to fertilize. “They have storage issues and ever-increasing litigation and regulatory issues that are really creating cost problems for the producers,” says Jenkins.
As a result, LWR’s system works best for larger operations. “When you get into a larger facility, you just have more manure issues and you have to take your manure farther away, because you only can put 100 pounds per acre of ammonia down,” says Jenkins.
To date, LWR has won the F.X. Aherne Prize for Innovative Pork Production at the 2009 Banff Pork Seminar and earlier this year, received the Top-10 New Products award at the 2010 World Ag Expo. The Emerald Award will round-out the company’s collection.