Smaller poultry businesses, comprising mainly broiler and egg producers and suppliers of day-old chicks, are helping address the need for job creation. But this growing industry has a problem: how to manage the environmental impact of ever-greater volumes of poultry litter.
The premise of our research is that the industry needs to shift away from the direct use of litter as a fertilizer, due to the high quantities of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium that accumulate in agricultural soil. Instead, individual farmers and entities, such as co-operatives, have a responsibility to utilize the litter produced by their businesses for deploying renewable energy-generation technologies for a more sustainable and efficient economy.
Biogas and electricity are the most commonly generated forms of energy by any of the waste-to-energy processes.
At this stage, anaerobic digestion is the technology of choice for the conversion of poultry litter and other wastes into bioenergy and other bioproducts such as biofertilizer. A challenge for the digestion of poultry litter, however, has been the need to add a large volume of water to digesters to adjust the litter to a total solids (TS) concentration of under 15% (as the TS concentration of poultry litter is about 70%).
The transition from the dumping of poultry litter to the repurposing of this waste is unescapable but will require careful selection of technology. All of the existing technologies require a certain amount of investment; should a farmer choose anaerobic digestion or thermochemical conversion option, the feasibility and justification would, therefore, need to be very strong.
Figure 1 shows the pathways a poultry farmer can choose to convert waste to energy and other value-added products.
COMPOSITION OF LITTER
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