“That will produce enough power for us to run our main farm,” says
Bob Beauregard, general manager of The Country Hen, based in
Hubbardston, Mass. “The advantage is that because we are putting
them on the roofs of the henhouses we are not taking up any additional
real estate to build a solar farm.”
Beauregard says work is beginning on the installation and it will be
up and running by early next summer.
Unlike other solar projects that feed into the grid, The Country Hen
is using its to directly supply power for its feed mill, well pumps and
other electrical motors, and expects to save about 195 barrels of oil
annually. It is also installing a propane-based radiant heat system using
water to heat the henhouse floors. “It is very efficient—as efficient as
you can get—so we can maintain a consistent temperature, especially
during our New England winters.”
The solar system should pay itself off within five years, Beauregard
says. “After that, we will really start to see a savings in what we’re pay-
ing. I don’t think it will make a huge dent in the cost of a carton of eggs.
This is more about clean, green power. We’re organic so we want to be
as green as we can with the natural resources that we have,” he says.
The Country Hen will likely advertise its solar conversion via the
Farm News written on its half-dozen carton of eggs sold at Whole
Foods and other stores. “Our hope is that we will positively impact
sales,” Beauregard says. “The greener we get, the more loyalty we build
with customers looking towards the environment and the organic side
In Minerva, Ohio, family-owned Minerva Dairy has been churning out
its famed Amish-style butter and cheese since 1894. That requires lots
of water, especially during the two-hour cleanup process at the end of
the day when up to 80 percent of the daily water is used, says Adam
Mueller, president. While Ohio’s water supply is plentiful and inexpen-
sive, it is high in iron. Traditionally, that requires treatment through
a water softener, and the use of salt, so 18 months ago Minerva Dairy
officials made an environmentally friendly switch.
“We put in a water polisher, which uses reverse osmosis to take the
iron out and create distilled water,” Mueller says. “Distilled water allows
us to use 37 percent less water on a daily basis because it takes less
chemicals in our cleaning process to get the same washing strength.”
That is saving 10 million gallons of water annually, he adds.
“We are working toward further reducing our footprint by utilizing
water that comes off the cheese making process,” Mueller says.
Look for nutrient recovery to be the next big thing, says Mike Schmid,
the chief marketing and operations officer of Renewable Nutrients, a
Pinehurst, N.C.-based firm that specializes in phosphorus recovery.
Widely used in fertilizers, phosphorus is a key nutrient necessary to
plant and animal survival that passes out of the body through excretion. Most commercial phosphorus comes from phosphate mines in the
U.S., China and Morocco, and experts say that supply may be exhausted
in 100 to 300 years.
“Our plan with Renewable Nutrients is to recover that phosphorus
from both agricultural waste streams at pig and chicken farms, and also
from human waste, and then resell it again on the open market so it can
be reused,” Schmid says.
Renewable Nutrients uses a process chemical process called Quick
Wash that can pull phosphorous out of sewage plants and anaerobic
digesters, like the one in use at Stop & Shop. “We manipulate the waste
stream to chemically to precipitate out the phosphorus, which comes
out as liquid calcium phosphate, which can then be dried,” Schmid
Manufacturers are doing their part to help the
environment. Clockwise from left: Minerva Dairy
has installed a water polisher and packages
its butter in environmentally-friendly paper.
Portland Roasting Coffee is using heat from its
roaster to power its plant, while The Country
Hen will tout its solar panels inside its cartons.