Considering the emerging trends of increased growth in this subsector, the environmental impact of poultry litter requires some close monitoring. Our fundamental premise is that the industry focus needs to shift away from direct use of poultry litter as a fertiliser, due to the high quantities of nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K) that would accumulate in agricultural soils.
Recently, environmentalists raised concerns over the impact of poultry litter dumping in terms of odour, emissions, stormwater release, as well as dust particles.
Waste is an unavoidable by-product of the poultry economy and it is the responsibility of individuals and entities such as co-operatives, to utilise litter for further economic value such as deploying renewable generation technologies for a more sustainable and efficient economy.
To date, biogas and electricity are the most common forms of energy generated from any of the waste-to-energy processes. Anaerobic digestion, thus far, is the technology of choice for the conversion of poultry litter and other waste into bioenergy and bioproducts such as bio-fertilisers.
A challenge for the digestion of poultry litter, has been the need to add a large amount of water to digesters as a means to adjust the litter to a total solid (TS) concentration of under 15%, as the TS concentration of poultry litter is approximately 70%.
Transitioning from the dumping of poultry litter to repurposing it, is unavoidable and will require careful selection of technology. All of the existing technologies require a certain amount of investment. Therefore, should a farmer choose anaerobic digestion or thermochemical conversion options, its feasibility and justification need to be very strong.
Figure1 illustrates the different pathways a poultry farmer can choose to convert poultry waste to energy and other value-added products. Outputs are primarily biomethane, bio fertilisers, bio-oil, syngas, and biochar, which may be recycled or catalytically converted into further commodities such as hydrocarbons, chemicals, gasoline, diesel and BioCNG.
The major constituents of poultry litter include bedding material, feathers, manure and wasted feed. The compositional characteristics of poultry litter is important to know, as it informs the farmer of a number of important physical properties such as moisture content, total (dry) solids, volatile solids, ash, and fixed carbon.
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