The World Ag Expo in Tulare, Calif., this year marked a historic milestone in the water and waste treatment solutions available to California’s agriculture industry. The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA), three dairy farms from the Merced Irrigation District (MID) and ProTech General Contracting Services signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to launch a set of pilot projects with a new digester system.

Dairy digesters are a high priority of the Schwarzenegger administration and the Governor underscored this week the importance of clean water and clean water technology.

The MOU signing ceremony at the World Ag Expo was conducted by Secretary Kawamura for the CDFA, Wil Hunter, president of the MID board of directors, and Chris Ott, the chief executive officer of ProTech. The public signing with the support of Governor Schwarzenegger publicly confirmed the public private partnership between Merced Irrigation District, the three dairies in that district’s service territory, and the CDFA. The green technology of the ProTech System and the pilot projects are all in line with the Governor’s green objectives and his support indicates a pledge to expedite the permitting process for the system implementation.   

The new PROWESS (ProTech Water Environmental Solutions System) employs the most advanced technology in water treatment, controls, and monitoring and treats water to Title 22 standards. Its technology is engineered in such a manner as to provide a comprehensive solution to waste water, solid wastes, and gas discharge. PROWESS engages the three principal resource areas of nutrients, air, and water and the sophisticated treatment of the resources results in green energy, optimized use of essential nutrients on the farm, cleaner air, and cleaner water. In addition, the system’s overall energy production has significant long-term revenue benefits for the farms, the Merced Irrigation District in which the farms are located, and the state of California.

Gallo Farms, Hillcrest Dairy Farms, and Lima Farms are the dairy farms participating in the Dairy Waste Treatment Project and are all located in Central California. The dairies have between 1,000 and 5,000 head of cows which produce an average of 120 pounds of waste per day including 16 pounds of solids and balance as liquid. Each farm site is committed to providing a maximum of two acres per site for the footprint of the treatment plant’s technical components which include an anaerobic digester, aerobic digester, and high-growth algae ponds.

The economics of the dairy farm projects indicate a payback for stakeholders in no more than seven years with a minimum internal rate of return of 20 percent over the 20-year economic life of the projects. The Dairy Waste Treatment Project will improve air quality and water quality, generate 3.5 megawatts of clean renewable power per year at the three sites from animal and farm waste, and produce approximately 900 tons of algae and approximately 32,000 tons of high-grade organic, weed-free fertilizer with significant bio-available nitrogen. In addition, the projects will enable the dairies to hire staff for green tech positions and will empower farmers to improve upon existing nutrient management plans.

The Central Valley Regional Water Board is beginning an environmental impact report process aimed at reducing the permit processing time for digester projects. As a result, projects like the ones highlighted in the memoranda of understanding will be more easily obtainable for Central Valley dairies.    

Source: California Department of Food and Agriculture and ProTech General Contracting Services