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Innovating Dairy Digester Research

Author: Chris M Brunner
Originally Published on UCANR Food Blog

This episode of Food & Facilities, our host is joined by Chris Brunner and Heather Johnson of Western Institute for Food Safety and Security, and Dr. Pramod Pandey of UC Davis’ School of Veterinary Medicine to discuss innovating dairy digester research.
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Dr. Pandey checking samples of biogas collected at UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine’s lab.
Samples of biogas collected at Dr. Pandey’s lab at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine.

California leads the nation in agricultural production, producing nearly all the nation’s leafy green vegetables, most nut and fruit varieties, and is ranked first in egg and dairy production.

What that means is that California also produces a lot of agricultural waste materials, including lots of manure.

Historically these waste materials have been used as a rich source of compost. However, researchers at UC Cooperative Extension are researching innovative uses for this material. 

Dr. Pramod Pandey, a faculty member and Cooperative Extension specialist at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, focuses on better ways to manage waste material for both large and small farms. Dr. Pandey researches how to convert the organic matter in manure and other waste materials into a renewable energy source that can be used to power our state.

Converting manure to renewable energy

California gets over 27% of its energy from renewable resources like solar wind, and hydroelectric. Our goal is 50% renewable energy by 2030. California is taking steps towards this goal by building a network of dairy digesters which use bacteria to break down dairy manure and convert it into biogas. Clean burning fuels, such as biogas, are a sustainable source for generating energy because when they are burned, harmful by products are not produced.

California currently gets 27% of its renewable energy from solar, wind, and hydro-electric sources. California hopes to reach 50% renewable energy by the year 2030, and 100% by 2045.

Big bonus

Dr. Pandey holding dry manure material, ready for reuse as fertilizer.

A bonus is that the solid material left after the digesters have done their job is a fertilizer that can be used to grow the fruits, vegetables and nuts that our state is famous for. This type of fertilizer contains nutrients that are more readily available for plants because the digestion process breaks up organic materials more efficiently than traditional composting. The digestion process also helps reduce the number of harmful bacteria found in manure, making it much safer for use on plants grown for human food.

Dr. Pandey and Tim Van Beek (Van Beek Brothers’ Dairy) inspect the contents of a dairy digester together.

California leading in discovery and innovation

When we think about where agriculture has been and where it is going, innovation, efficiency and environmental sustainability are hallmarks of our approach in California. People like Dr. Pandey are driving forward research and technology to minimize the impact of agriculture production on the environment. When we think about where agriculture has been and where it is going, innovation, efficiency and environmental sustainability are hallmarks of our approach in California. His multidisciplinary approach to solving this complex problem of agricultural waste materials and water/air quality helps improve the economic wellbeing of farmers, and benefits Californians by providing nutrients for safe, healthy, and nutritious food.

While the importance of California’s agriculture might be huge, its footprint on the environment doesn’t have to be, and it is researchers like Dr. Pramod Pandey who are ensuring our state leads in discovery and innovation for many harvests to come.

Dr. Pandey and Tim Van Beek stand in front of dairy cows at the Van Beek Brothers’ Dairy.
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California League of Food Producers (CLFP) Annual Meeting April 30

News Release

California League of Food Producers

For more information:  Lisa Jager, 916-640-8150, lisa@clfp.com

CLFP Annual Meeting April 30

The California League of Food Producers (CLFP) will hold its 2020 Annual Board of Directors Meeting on April 30 via webinar. The meeting will be presided over by outgoing 2019-20 chair Ross Siragusa, The Kraft Heinz Company. Michael Mariani, Mariani Packing Company, Inc., is expected to be elected and welcomed as the 20-21 chair.

Siragusa is Head of Agriculture & Seed for Kraft Heinz and works out of its Stockton, CA, office. Mariani is a Partner with Mariani Packing, which is based in Vacaville, CA.

Members will hear legislative and regulatory updates from CLFP’s Government Affairs Directors Trudi Hughes and John Larrea, as well as information on how the coronavirus is affecting California’s food
processing industry.

CLFP is an association representing the interests of both large and small food and beverage processors throughout the state. CLFP works to help ensure a favorable and profitable business environment for its members and the food processing industry. The association also has affiliate members that provide a wide variety of products and services to the industry

The Food Processing Expo is produced each February by CLFP, and is the largest event of its kind in California. The 2021 Expo will be held February 9-10 at the Sacramento Convention Center.

For more information, visit CLFP at www.clfp.com and the Expo site at www.foodprocessingexpo.org