A joint venture between Idaho’s dairy industry and the organic tomato industry in southern Idaho could prove to be an interesting solution to complaints handling dairy manure and alleviating complaints about odors.

Lewis Eilers, executive director of the Idaho Dairymen's Association, says the concept is based on 20 years of success in Israel. The greenhouse-grown tomatoes would use dairy cow manure to produce energy and fertilizer. The U.S. company, which Eilers says he cannot yet name, and Eilers have been working on selecting sites for self-contained greenhouses in Idaho’s dairy country since 1997.

Each 30-acre greenhouse would be located on 200 acres and use a technology called thermophilic anaerobic digestion. It is a process that speeds up the composting process of manure. A closed system would capture methane gas to be used for heating and electrical needs for the greenhouse. The decomposing manure also would supply the carbon dioxide and liquid fertilizer that plants need to grow. Any unused product from the digestion process could be sold as organic compost.

Each day manure would be collected from the area dairies and producers would be paid a fee of about $1 per cow per day. Each greenhouse could utilize the manure from 3,000 to 3,200 cows per day.

So far, two facilities are planned for the Magic Valley and details should be finalized very soon. With the amount of dairy manure available in the state, Eilers says there is potential for 70 to 80 more greenhouse facilities.