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North Canaan CTNorth Canaan Nutrient Management Information

North Canaan Nutrient Management Feasibilty Study

 

North Canaan Nutrient Management Feasibility Study

Northwest Connecticut has an active dairy farming community. Some of the farms in this region produce more manure nutrients than can be agronomically and economically handled on the available fields in the surrounding areas. This excess manure has the potential to be a source of pollution for area lakes and streams. To prevent this possibility, there is a need to convert manure nutrients into a form and/or product that can be exported off the farm. A value-added
product such as compost provides a method for moving manure nutrients into non-dairy farm markets and has the potential to produce an income stream for the farmer.

The Canaan Valley Agricultural Cooperative, Inc. is a group of seven dairy farms located in northwestern Connecticut and neighboring Massachusetts. This group has been working to develop value-added products from excess dairy manure as a method to move nutrients into another sector and to prevent over-application of nutrients to their fields. The Canaan Valley Agricultural Cooperative, Inc. has had discussions with a private company to develop a regional manure anaerobic digester to generate power. While the project could provide a source of income from the manure, it would not address the nutrient surplus issue facing the farms since the anaerobic digester effluent would be returned to the Cooperative farms. The Canaan Valley Agricultural Cooperative, Inc. is interested in the potential opportunity of composting the solids fraction of the digester effluent as a nutrient management option with the potential for additional income from the compost end products. This feasibility study evaluates two regional facility options: composting the solids fraction of the anaerobic digester effluent and, in case the digester project does not go forward, composting excess dewatered manure directly from the farms. In order to size the facility and estimate the quantity of available manure, the members of the Canaan Valley Agricultural Cooperative, Inc. were interviewed and a survey of each farm was completed. The data collected was used as the design basis of the composting facility, equipment selection, and estimates of finished compost volume.

The manure and amendment volumes used as the basis for the analysis and facility design are given in Table 1-1. The maximum and minimum cases are based on the number of farms contributing to the facility. The minimum case assumes that only the three largest farms would use the regional composting facility; the maximum case assumes six of the farms would use the regional composting facility. In all cases the manure would be dewatered at the farm or at the anaerobic digester before being trucked to the regional composting facility.

 

NorthCanaanTable1-1

The feed quantities presented in Table 1-1 were used to predict the volume and quality of compost product that would be produced at the facility. Table 1-2 provides the expected quantity of salable material under the two design conditions.

North Canaan Table 1-2

Based on the quantity and quality of compost product expected, a market analysis was conducted to identify realistic sale prices and potential costumers. The analysis identified a strong market demand among landscapers and landscape and nursery suppliers for a high quality, manure based compost that is available year-round. Bulk compost of any grade is currently not widely available in the northwestern part of Connecticut—the primary market area for the North Canaan facility. High freight costs have limited the range of compost suppliers from out-of-state and improved the prospects for local suppliers. Consumers have also been exhibiting a preference for purchasing locally-produced goods and have demonstrated a willingness to pay slightly more for these products. Consequently, there appears to be a demand that is not being met and a market opportunity. In addition, composted cow manure is considered a superior product to most other types of compost and should be marketed as such.

The best market opportunity for the North Canaan dairy manure composting facility is distributing the composted material to local landscaping operations and home gardeners in Litchfield County. The following options exist for this market:
• Bulk Compost. Wholesale suppliers to the landscape market including Shemin Nurseries
and GreenCycle have expressed an interest in carrying bulk cow manure compost from
the North Canaan facility.
• Bagged Compost: Consolidation in the composting industry and high freight costs have
created a niche for a premium, locally-produced bagged cow manure compost.
However, price competition from high volume suppliers like Scotts makes entry into the
retail market more difficult for a small operation that cannot benefit from economies of
scale.

Bulk compost provides a more Bulk compost provides a more realistic and dependable market opportunity and it is recommended that the compost be screened to a 3/8 inch size to provide the highest quality and most desirable product possible, improving the potential viability of the facility. Offering delivery to the job site could expand the available market. However, trucks and personnel would be required to handle these orders. The most reliable marketing strategy for the regional composting facility is to sell the material as high quality compost, at a wholesale price averaging $17 per cubic yard, to the local landscaping market.

Composting can be achieved through a number of proven methods, and several of these were considered in this study. Specifically, the financial and operational feasibility of windrow, covered pile (Ag-Bag), and agitated bin composting systems were compared for this analysis. While all three options are proven methods of achieving acceptable compost product, the cost, land area required, and maintenance demands differentiate the systems. Early in the analysis the agitated bin system was found to be cost prohibitive due to the number bins and turners required. As a result, the agitated bin system was not evaluated further. The windrow and Ag-Bag systems
were considered more viable options. Technically both technologies are feasible. They both have been used successfully at other
locations, they require about the same amount of land, and much of the process is the same for all of the options. The most significant differences include the following:
• The windrow system provides periodic agitation to break up the "hot spots" during the
active composting phase. The Ag-Bag system is a static pile system and may produce a
less uniform product. Proper curing would be important with the Ag-Bag system.
• The Ag-Bag system is enclosed and would provide some level of odor control while the
windrow system is open to the atmosphere.
• The Ag-Bag system requires handling and disposal of the bags.

The availability and price of amendment material can significantly impact the cost of operating the composting facility. High grade horse manure can be considered as an alternative to woodchips and may be available in the area at no cost. The horse manure would not be recycled but would remain in the material as part of the finished compost, increasing the volume of product available for sale and increasing revenue.

Economically, the analysis indicates that none of the options would produce sufficient income to cover all of the costs of the operations. The costs associated with each system are presented in Table 1-3. Even when avoided costs are considered, it is unlikely that any of these options will be a revenue producing operation. Of the options reviewed, the Ag-Bag and horse manure options are the most cost effective. Grant funding and low interest loan options can have a significant effect on the overall project cost. If the capital cost can be substantially covered, then the costs are reduced to the operating costs of the project, increasing the viability of the facility. However, no sinking fund was included in these estimates. A sinking fund would be equivalent to the annualized capital cost. Therefore, the totals given can also be used as an estimate of the costs with grant funding and a sinking fund. In each case, the operating costs also exceeded the annual income. Therefore in no case does it appear that income will be generated via a regional composting facility.

North Canaan Table 1-3

The above information comes from the North Canaan Nutrient Management Feasibility Study.
To access the full report click on the following link North Canaan Nutrient Management Feasibility Study.

You can also visit the Town of North Canaan online: North Canaan CT

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