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VERMONT PHOSPHORUS INNOVATION CHALLENGE FEBRUARY 2021 UPDATE
Please find below an update detailing the status of the five Vermont Phosphorus Innovation Challenge (VPIC) Participants engaged in Stage Three agreements, awarded in November of 2019.
February, 2020 | Montpelier, VT - The progress and results of all VPIC projects has been substantially impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic, posing many hurdles with availability of labs for research and trials, delays impeding access and delivery of equipment, and pauses in fabrication of equipment and technology due to Stay Home orders and social distancing guidelines. The dedication and progress displayed by all groups has been nothing short of impressive.
During Stage Three, DVO has engaged in two different studies to explore methods of drying materials produced from anaerobic digesters at dairy farms, to then be enhanced using a Dissolved Air Floatation Device (DAF) process capturing valuable nutrients for advanced solids control. The goal of the project is to develop a ‘P-Cake’ product that is high in phosphorus and other nutrients. This material can then be processed, bagged and/or bottled as a marketable retail product, in addition to being used to create, sell, and distribute bulk fertilizer and soil amendment materials from a facility established in Vermont.
The remaining hurdle for DVO in full execution of their proposal is perfecting a drying method for the materials produced from the DAF solids. DVO had initially proposed the use of quicklime (QL) as an additive to decrease moisture in the products without impacting growth or germination rates. Unfortunately, this method – while adequately drying the material, did impact growth yields due to changes in pH, as well as biding up nutrients and making them unavailable to plants. The second drying method, the use of a centrifuge to dewater the DAF solids to a level that is manageable without incurring substantial nutrient losses from the solids, concluded in December of 2020. The method was not deemed a viable option for drying the DAF material as the moisture content attained through the Centrifuge process was too high, resulting in a product that had unimpacted growth impacts, but was still too wet to manage and process into a bagged product.
Currently, DVO is exploring the use of a ring dryer to decrease the moisture content of the materials such that it can be managed and processed. The logistics and operating costs of this equipment are being explored and will be submitted to the VPIC Leadership Team by the end of February 2021 in a report format. The VPIC Leadership Team will review this report to determine the release of the remaining funding awarded to DVO, Inc through VPIC Stage Three. These results will be documented in a subsequent update.
IEC-Thermo Ring Dryer Configuration (DVO Photo)
Green State Biochar
Green State Biochar (GSB), a producer of enriched biochar, has been actively working on honing their biochar filter design to meet reduction efficiencies that would indicate the effectiveness of prototypes, such that these practices might be used or recommended by VAAFM engineers as a solution to varying water quality or nutrient management concerns located on farm operations. To do this, VAAFM engineering personnel, worked with GSB, and the Center for an Agricultural Economy, to design a field trial that would indicate the reduction capacity of biochar as it relates to a similar, cheaper, and accessible media commonly used in filtration practices, septic sand. The biochar, after being used as a filtration media, is then enriched with nutrients, allowing farmers to use this product as an additive on nutrient deficient fields, or for GSB to buy back and resell as a nutrient additive for other farmers or gardeners. This second step is important to consider, as sand does not have the ability to be reused in such a way.
Simultaneously, GSB contracted with Atlantic Corporation of Waterville, Maine to explore the market demand for GSB’s enriched biochar products in a Market Research Report. The Market Research Report found that there is substantial interest in phosphorus enriched biochar, however retailers currently have little knowledge on or about this product. With several recommendations from Atlantic Corporation generated through a Business to Business survey, there seems to be a meaningful potential for market growth.
GSB also submitted a Research Report documenting the results of the research trial. The report indicated that while there exists a significant potential use for biochar as a filtration media for on farm agricultural waste, concerns persist regarding the design and implementation of a filtration mechanism that will consistently, effectively operate without malfunction. The VPIC Leadership Team determined that further research and trial runs are needed to hone and fine tune such a design before widespread implementation on farms can occur with direct financial support from the State of Vermont Best Management Practices (BMP) Program. These concerns, in addition to the recommendation from the VAAFM engineer involved with coordination of the field research trial, to not recommend biochar as a phosphorus removal media for agricultural waste streams, led the VPIC Leadership Team to the decision to not allocate additional funding to Green State Biochar for further implementation of VPIC Stage Three. The decision was communicated to GSB on January 27, 2021.
Green State Biochar Team (GSB Photo)
Digested Organics has been engaged in the fabrication and construction of a mobile manure screening and ultrafiltration system to be used on a Vermont dairy farm to remove >95% of the phosphorus, >99% of the suspended solids, and >99.9% of pathogens in liquid manure, the UF System. The remaining liquid is ideal for field application (80% of the initial manure volume) and the concentrated fertilizer is readily transportable (20% of the initial manure volume). By concentrating phosphorus, this technology allows the farm to apply phosphorus more economically on lands that are further away and typically lower in soil phosphorus, as well as transport the material to nearby compost facilities for stabilization and incorporation into value-added products.
The design for the UF System is complete, as is the fabrication of the UF module. This system can process about 3,000 GPD of manure (about 100 cows) and generate around 2,000 GPD of permeate. The permeate will flow by gravity to a nearby storage lagoon and the concentrate will be collected in a tank at the site, where it will then be transferred to the composting operation run by Agrilab Technologies (another VPIC Participant). The 20’ trailer transporting this equipment has been completed and is scheduled to be delivered to Vermont by late March, later than expected due to further delays caused by Covid-19.
The biggest open item for this VPIC Project is regarding electrical service needs, specifically 3-phase power. 3-phase power is needed first of all for the Digested Organics’ UF units, with some of the pump motors for that equipment package being up to 15 hp. 3-phase power is also beneficial for operating the screw press separator and Agrilab Technologies’ CAHR unit. This open item is still being explored, and it is likely to dictate on which farms Digested Organics will be able to operate the UF Unit. Establishing 3-phase power can be exceeding expensive, so likely Digested Organics will initially be working with operations that have existing 3-phase power capabilities. Updates on this topic will be provided in in a subsequent update.
Structural steel components being welded to support the UF modules and pumps// Trailer for transporting UF modules and pumps (Digested Organics Photo)
Agrilab Technologies Inc.
Agrilab Technologies Inc.’s (AGT) Stage Three VPIC proposal includes the establishment of a hub and spoke network of five on-farm composting and phosphorus processing sites. AGT has been engaged in establishing the market demand for composted materials created from cow manure, with various combinations of nutrient additives. AGT worked closely with the Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund (VSJF) to document the demand for bulk and bagged products, as well as willingness to pay for locally produced fertilized for use by Vermont farmers, in home gardens, specialty crop growers, etc. A required Market Research report documenting the demand and market potential for these products was submitted by AGT in March of 2020. Similar to DVO and GSB, AGT was initially awarded $25,000.00 to conduct this research to determine if further development of this market was viable, and if the total grant award was to be released. On April 20, 2020 AGT was notified by the VPIC Project Manager of the acceptance of their Market Research Report, releasing the remaining of $305,200.00 awarded to AGT through VPIC Stage Three for the establishment of infrastructure necessary to support the hub and spoke model.
AGT has been working on equipment fabrication, site development tasks, and additional business planning. Equipment fabrication specifically involves the ordering of components and assembly of the AGT Compost Hot Box 250-8R. This equipment package has been mounted inside an insulated 20’ shipping container at the company shop in Cambridge, VT. This equipment package is the compost aeration and heat recovery (CAHR) unit that will be able to produce compost from phosphorus (P) containing ingredients including livestock manure (separated dairy manure solids, scraped manure and pen manure), wood chips, leaves, sawdust, waste feed, and P concentrate (from a Digested Organics LLC ultrafiltration unit). The unit can be monitored and controlled remotely in order to reduce on-site labor demands and optimize operation. Fabrication was completed and the unit was transferred to the Magnan Brothers Dairy LLC, Burnor Farm on January 22, 2021.
Site development tasks have been focused on work with the Magnan Brothers Dairy LLC, their Burnor Farm will be the ‘hub’ of the model. Four different farmsteads in Fairfield and St. Albans that house either lactating dairy cows or heifers are being explored as potential ‘spokes’ for the model. Physical space available, availability of power and internet, characteristics and volume of manure at the farmstead and suitability for other value-added processing and/or retail activities were assessed for the Chester Arthur “home” farm, Maquam Shore Dairy “bay” farm, Burnor Farm, and Stonehouse Farm.
The VPIC Leadership Team visited the AGT Cambridge shop (both physically and virtually) to see the Compost Hot Box unit prior to its move to the Magnan Brother Dairy Burnor Farm. The timeline for product testing in 2021 with a targeted spring 2022 launch is still on track with the submitted marketing and business plan.
Agrilab Technologies Compost Hot Box (AGT Photo)
University of Vermont and Village of Essex Junction
The University of Vermont and the Village of Essex Junction, along with several other partners have developed and been testing Pe −Phlo (pronounced P Flow), a mobile, flexible, and scalable solution for Phosphorus capture and removal. Pe −Phlo applications focus on reduced installation and operational costs without the investment needed for conventional Phosphorus removal “brick and mortar” approaches. Proprietary pipe descaling technology (PDT) is widely used throughout the United States in thousands of successful scale formation control applications. This technology may well prove cost effective for Phosphorus removal in Vermont sized wastewater applications. The technology induces an oscillating electric field of variable amplitude and specific frequency that promotes formation and precipitation of crystalline minerals (i.e. Struvite) without dangerous and damaging adhesion normally associated with the formation of these compounds. Pe −Phlo uses PDT coupled with an electric-filtration membrane filtration cell, to enhance Phosphorus capture and removal from the waste stream.
Struvite generation systems are employed to remove Phosphorus from waste streams originating from water resource recovery facilities. The new Pe−Phlo System allows for controlled formation and removal of Struvite and Vivianite outside of the treatment process. The collected Struvite can be processed as a fertilizer resource outside of the wastewater facility. Pe−Phlo is viable on a small-scale application because it uses an innovative application of pipeline descaling technology as a means of enhancing crystalline Struvite generation and Phosphorus removal. It also uses a proprietary electrical field on the filter that allows for efficient capture of the Struvite crystals generated. Pe−Phlo enhanced Struvite generation and capture improves the scalability to Vermont-sized water resource recovery facilities and Vermont sized farms. UVM has been continuing trials documenting the scalability of Pe −Phlo. The research was severely impacted with the shutdown of the UVM lab during the spring and early summer of 2020.
Construction of the PePhlo reactor designed during the capstone project remains in process, although still is experiencing delays due to Covid-19. The research on branding, market niche as well as competitive equipment and process identification will serve well for further work on a business plan as pilot work continues. The Final Report due date for this project has been extended to March 8, 2021 and will be addressed in in a subsequent update.
Essex Junction Wastewater Treatment Facility (Village of Essex Junction Photo)
GOVERNOR PHIL SCOTT ANNOUNCES VERMONT PHOSPHORUS INNOVATION CHALLENGE FINALISTS
Montpelier, Vt. - Governor Phil Scott today announced over $1 million in state funding awarded to five groups for innovative technologies to separate and extract phosphorus from various waste streams as part of Stage Three of the Vermont Phosphorus Innovation Challenge (VPIC).
“These innovative projects not only enhance our efforts to restore Vermont’s waterways but also promote economic growth and environmental sustainability,” said Governor Scott. “Congratulations to the groups who are moving on, I look forward to seeing your creative solutions develop in the coming months.”
VPIC was announced in February 2018 as an X-Prize style competition to harness creative solutions to address phosphorus pollution in Vermont. VPIC complements ongoing, essential work to install conservation measures and best management practices to reduce phosphorus losses from farms and in stormwater runoff from developed lands. These new technologies aim to make existing protections even more effective.
Of the 27 initial VPIC applicants, six groups were selected for initial funding awards. Beginning in September 2018, awardees engaged in technology prototyping and business case development, honing their technologies for phosphorus recovery and researching the market potential for the extracted nutrients. Over the summer, field visits were made to each group to monitor progress on implementation and to further understand the respective technologies. The final component of Stage Two for VPIC was the submission of a final business report earlier this fall.
These reports included a detailed business plan describing the method, process and costs for full implementation; the proven ability of the technologies to recover phosphorus; the potential revenue streams associated with recovered phosphorus; and an explanation of the suitability of technology or practice to address Vermont’s existing phosphorus challenge. The business plan also described additional available funding and investments outside of state resources to help fully scale implementation of each proposal. Submission of this report qualified participants to move on to Stage Three of the VPIC.
Following a thorough review of the reports, five projects were selected for further development. Each awarded project is unique and proposes an effective and innovative solution to address the phosphorus pollution that impacts water quality statewide.
Vermont Phosphorus Innovation Challenge Finalists
DVO, Inc. and University of Vermont (UVM) – Chilton, WI - $500,000
Anaerobic digesters at dairy farms statewide that will be enhanced for advanced solids control using Dissolved Air Floatation (DAF) processes. These vessels will develop a ‘P-Cake’ product that is high in phosphorus and other nutrients. This product will be handled by a newly formed Vermont company (NEWCO) which will operate a newly opened facility in Vermont that will process, bag and/or bottle this material as a marketable retail product, as well as producing, selling and distributing bulk fertilizer and soil amendment materials.
Eric Roy and Kate Porterfield of UVM with VPIC Stage Two Grow Tests. (VAAFM Photo)
VPIC Stage Two site visit with DVO, UVM, and affiliates to Blue Spruce Farm, located in Bridport, VT. (VAAFM Photo)
Green State Biochar – Barton, VT - $135,000
Use of local renewable organic wood waste materials that are processed in an innovative pyrolysis machine developed in Vermont to produce a sequestered carbon product called Biochar. The awarded funds will help construct a larger kiln for the increased capacity to produce biochar. This biochar will be used in several Phosphorus Capture Systems, acting as a filter to efficiently capture the majority of the phosphorus from various types of agricultural runoff and producing valuable soil amendment/fertilizer products called p-enriched biochar for local reuse. Market research and business planning will help to determine the demand for p-enriched biochar.
Secretary of the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets, Anson Tebbetts and Donna Pion of Green State Biochar examine biochar on a VPIC Stage Two Site visit to Wonder Why Farm located in Cabot, VT. (VAAFM Photo)
Roger Pion of Green State Biochar explains to Chief Agricultural Engineer of the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets, Rob Achilles, about the biochar filter setup on Butterworks Farm located in Westfield, VT. (VAAFM Photo)
Agrilab Technologies Inc. – Enosburg Falls, VT - $320,200
Use of a combination of existing phosphorus (P) recovery technologies, composting and drying equipment to establish a series of hub and spoke sites for P processing infrastructure in Franklin, Addison, Lamoille and Caledonia counties. The first model will set up a composting ‘hub’ in Franklin County and begin with items such as physical working pads, electric and data service, storage and related infrastructure work on several ‘spoke’ farms in Franklin, Lamoille and Caledonia counties. Additionally, Agrilab Technologies will build and utilize a Hot Box 8A-250R, a 20-foot containerized compost aeration and heat recovery (CAHR) unit. The unit may be moved between two or more farms in the initial years of operation and adds to positive aeration and drying capacity of the materials. The infrastructure and pieces of equipment address needs of P separation and concentration, pathogen destruction and volume reduction via composting of manure-based P products, and further stabilization through aerated drying. Market research and business planning will occur to determine the demand for the composted end products.
Agrilab Technologies' Compost Heat Wagon, located at VT Natural Ag Products located in Middlebury, VT. (VAAFM Photo)
Steam rising from batches of composted manure solids, wood chips and P concentrate indicates moisture being driven off by heated aeration during prototyping at VT Natural Ag Products located in Middlebury, VT. (Agrilab Technologies Photo)
Digested Organics – Ann Arbor, MI - $137,500
Awarded funding for the construction of a mobile ultrafiltration (UF) system to process manure and/or digested manure from about 100 dairy cows. The unit will include a fiber-removal process and small commercial-scale stainless steel UF system to create permeate (also known as tea-water) and concentrate. UF permeate contains very little phosphorus and will remain on the farm for land application while the concentrate rich in phosphorus will be a slurry available to nearby farms and composting operations where it can be converted into higher value products. By being mobile, the unit can move from farm to farm as needed, providing flexibility to use the unit where it is most beneficial, adjust to changing seasonal conditions, and expose more farmers to the technology throughout the state.
A model size ultrafiltration (UF) System built by Digested Organics for VPIC Stage Two trials located at VT Natural Ag Products located in Middlebury, VT. (VAAFM Photo)
Phosphorus Concentration created through Digested Organics' UF System located at VT Natural Ag Products located in Middlebury, VT. (Agrilab Technologies Photo)
UVM, Village of Essex Junction, Chittenden County Solid Waste District and Efficiency VT – Essex Junction, VT - $58,907
Struvite generation systems are employed to remove Phosphorus from waste streams originating from water resource recovery facilities. The new Pe−Phlo System allows for controlled formation and removal of Struvite and Vivianite outside of the treatment process. The collected Struvite can be processed as a fertilizer resource outside of the wastewater facility. Pe−Phlo is viable on a small-scale application because it uses an innovative application of pipeline descaling technology as a means of enhancing crystalline Struvite generation and Phosphorus removal. It also uses a proprietary electrical field on the filter that allows for efficient capture of the Struvite crystals generated. Pe−Phlo enhanced Struvite generation and capture improves the scalability to Vermont-sized water resource recovery facilities and Vermont sized farms.
Click here to view UVM, the Village of Essex Junction, CWSD, and Efficiency VT's Stage Three Submission
Professor Raju Badireddy of UVM explains the process of Struvite collection to ANR Secretary Julie Moore and AAFM Secretary Anson Tebbetts in his lab located on the UVM campus in Burlington, VT. (VAAFM Photo)
Struvite formations can be seen on the walls of a vial during trials conducted by Professor Raju Badireddy at his lab located at UVM in Burlington, VT. (Prof. Badireddy Photo)
VPIC Stage Three Evaluation Team:
- Jeanette Brown, Manhattan College
- Jed Davis, Agri-Mark/Cabot Creamery Co-operative
- Eric Howe, Lake Champlain Basin Program & New England Interstate Water Pollution Control Commission
- Tim Kenney, AI Certain
- Guy Roberts, University of Vermont
- Greg Huysman, Vermont State Employee Credit Union
- Ela Chapin, Vermont Housing and Conservation Board
- Ken Jones, Vermont Agency of Commerce & Community Development
- Brett Long, Vermont Department of Economic Development
- Anson Tebbetts, Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets
- Julie Moore, P.E., Vermont Agency of Natural Resources
- Marli Rupe, Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation
If you would like to receive information about the Phosphorus Innovation Challenge, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
VPIC Stage Two
Six Proposals Awarded Funding for Stage Two of VPIC:
Recipients of Stage Two Funding through the Vermont Phosphorus Innovation Challenge awarded by Governor Phil Scott.
DVO, Inc. and University of Vermont (UVM) – Chilton, WI – 45,000.00
Thirteen anerobic digester vessels situated statewide will be utilized with enhancements for solids control using Dissolved Air Floatation (DAF) processes and will develop a ‘p-cake’ product that is high in phosphorus for potential nationwide resale that will have a verified and significant value to agriculture.
Eric Roy of UVM
Rock Dust Local, LLC – Bridport, VT – $25,000.00
Manufacture, apply, and study mineral and mineralized bio-carbon soil amendments (aka Biochar) deployed in the field to manage solution reactive phosphorus (SRP) and nitrogen loss through broadcast field applications, animal bedding admixtures and in-situ filtration media.
Thomas Vanacore of Rock Duck Local, LLC. and Trampas Demers of Shelburne Limestone Corp
Green State Biochar – Barton, VT – $30,000.00
Use of local renewable organic waste materials that are processed in an innovative machine developed in Vermont as a prototype pyrolysis machine that produces a sequestered carbon product called Biochar. This Phosphorus Capture System utilizes this Biochar to act as a filter that efficiently captures the majority of the phosphorus, while producing valuable soil amendment/fertilizer products for local reuse.
Donna Pion, Roger Pion, and Luke Persons of Green State Biochar
Agrilab Technologies Inc. – Enosburg Falls, VT – $50,000.00
Use of a combination of existing phosphorus (P) recovery technologies, composting and drying equipment, and associated best management practices to demonstrate the technical feasibility of stabilizing and adding value to recovered “p-cake” and similar materials.
Agrilab Technologies uses composting and energy captured from the decomposition process to dry and stabilize phosphorus products
Digested Organics – Ann Arbor, MI – $45,000.00
Use ultrafiltration system on a Vermont dairy farm to remove most of the present phosphorus, suspended solids and pathogens in liquid manure, producing a transparent liquid ideal for field application, known as “UF Permeate” (a.k.a. “tea-water”) and a concentrated fertilizer that is readily transportable, known as “UF Concentrate.”
Digested Organics' 'Majestic UF System'
Village of Essex Junction, Chittenden County Solid Waste District and UVM – Essex Junction, VT – $45,000.00
Use of proprietary pipe descaling technology (PDT) to effectively remove phosphorus in Vermont sized wastewater applications. The technology uses an induced electric field of variable amplitude and frequency that can promote precipitation of crystalline minerals (struvite) without the dangerous and damaging adhesion to pipes, pumps or in tanks. The PDT coupled with electric-filtration cell will be employed to enhance phosphorus capture.
Jim Jutras from the Village of Essex Junction and Appala Raju Badireddy from UVM
VPIC Evaluation Team Members: Stage Two
- Jeanette Brown, Manhattan College
- John Cohn, IBM Corporation
- Jed Davis, Agri-Mark/Cabot Creamery Co-operative
- Max Herzog, Cleveland Water Alliance
- Eric Howe, Lake Champlain Basin Program & New England Interstate Water Pollution Control Commission
- Ken Jones, Vermont Agency of Commerce & Community Development
- Tim Kenney, AI Certain
- Bryan Stubbs, Cleveland Water Alliance
- Guy Roberts, VAAFM
Follow this link to see video of the event:
Follow this link for more information on Stage Two Funding awards:
Stage One: State of Vermont Selects 12 Sumbissions out of 27 to Present to VPIC Evaluation Team
Using this innovative method of identifying solutions to problems or challenges, we hope to identify one or more technologies that could help mitigate the impact of phosphorus in our watershed by ensuring that the right amount of phosphorus is applied to the soil at the right time and in the right place, which will in turn minimize losses to our rivers, lakes, ponds and streams.
The Application Period for Stage One Closed July 6, 2018.
Stage One Proposals were submitted by July 6, 2018. A total of 27 Proposals were submitted, a list of the Proposals and the submitting organizations can be found here:
Some, or all, of the teams submitting responses to Stage One will be selected to make an in-person presentation to the Evaluation Team on Septmeber 6, 2018. The Evaluation Team will be comprised of subject matter experts, scientists, entrepreneurs, and State officials. VPIC was Initiated On Friday April 27, 2018 by Governor Scott.
Timeline and details for interested parties are as follows:
- On April 27, 2018, an invitation was issued for proposals to develop a “proof of concept” for processes or technologies that remove phosphorus from manure or other waste streams and make the recovered phosphorus available for beneficial reuse.
- By May 11, 2018, prospective applicants emailed their intent to participate in the challenge.
- On May 21, 2018, the Administration held a meeting from 1-3 pm at the Agency of Natural Resources (ANR) Annex with interested parties to field questions and discuss the challenge.
- Stage One proposals were received, via email, by 5pm EST on July 6, 2018.
- 12 teams that submitted responses to Stage One were selected to make an in-person presentation to the Evaluation Team on Septmeber 6, 2018.
- Six teams were selected to progress to Stage Two of VPIC, notification occured on September 30, 2018.
- Stage Two concluded on September 30, 2019.
- VPIC Finalists were notified on November 8, 2019.
Click Here for Details on the VPIC: Phosphorous Innovation Challenge Brief
Click here for the VPIC FAQ Document: VPIC- Frequently Asked Question Document (updated June 27, 2018)