Just maybe, U.S. EPA is learning that being proactive and constructive is more effective than its adversarial enforcement tack. This week, the agency announced its partnership with USDA, pork and dairy producers, and environmental and scientific experts to launch the Nutrient Recycling Challenge.
The challenge involves competition to develop affordable manure recycling technologies. "Scientists and engineers are already building technologies that can recover nutrients. But further development is needed to make them more effective and affordable," said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. "The Nutrient Recycling Challenge will harness the power of competition to find solutions that are a win-win for farmers, the environment, and the economy."
It must be noted that agriculture hasn't been "twiddling its thumbs" waiting for ways to harvest nitrogen and phosphorus from the waste stream. Private industry, here and in Europe, has been working on and refining new technologies for more than a decade. Much of it is already in use.
Extra R&D incentives
The Recycling Challenge's aim is to bring out new ideas. First, participants will turn in papers outlining their technologies for extracting manure nutrients and generate products with environmental and economic benefits that farmers can use or sell.
During the four-phase competition, innovators will turn their concepts into designs and eventually into working technologies that livestock farms will use in pilot projects. Phase one, which begins on Monday, Nov. 16, and ends Friday, Jan. 15, calls for papers outlining the tech ideas.
Prizes, to be announced in March, include up to $20,000 cash – split between up to four semi-finalists. They would be invited to a two-day partnering and investor summit in Washington, D.C.; and entry into subsequent phases of the challenge with larger awards. Final awards will be announced January 2017, with farm demonstration pilots to follow.
Partners in the Nutrient Recycling Challenge are:
|• American Biogas Council
• American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers
• Ben & Jerry's
• Cabot Creamery Cooperative
• Cooper Farms
• Dairy Farmers of America
• Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy
• Iowa State University
• Marquette University
• National Milk Producers Federation
• National Pork Producers Council
• Newtrient LLC
• Smithfield Foods
• Strategic Conservation Solutions
• Tyson Foods
• U.S. Department of Agriculture
• Washington State University
• Water Environment Research Federation
• World Wildlife Fund
For more details, visit the Nutrient Recycling Challenge website.