Bion Environmental Technologies — Restoring Our Freshwater Resources
Livestock agriculture is one of the most prominent industries in the world. At the start of the 21st century, the total amount of land dedicated worldwide to animal farming is equivalent the whole of Africa — and one of the biggest problems caused by such scale is the incredible amount of environmentally damaging excrement that the farmed animals produce.
In the United States, 9 million dairy cows, 92 million beef cattle, 62 million swine, and billions of poultry excrete well over 100 times the amount of manure as the entire human population of 315 million. Much of the nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorous) in this waste end up seeping into underwater reservoirs and nearby rivers as runoff, polluting freshwater resources and placing public health at risk. Once this runoff makes its way to lakes or ocean coasts, it can lead to massive algae blooms that use up underwater oxygen, creating large “dead zones” that kill off marine life. Prominent seasonal dead zones in the U.S. include the Gulf of Mexico (second largest in the world), the Chesapeake Bay, Long Island Sound, the Great Lakes, and coastal Oregon.
The Natural Resource Defense Council (NRDC), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), are just some of the authorities that have labeled livestock waste as a considerable public health risk, leading cause of worldwide degradation in freshwater resources, and major threat to coastal marine life.
Existing Solutions Not Good Enough?
Farmers and environmentalist have long known about damaging effects of livestock waste. There are actually several proven approaches to combat this problem, including:
- Forested Buffers — planting trees, shrubs, and grass along rivers to absorb nutrient runoffs.
- Cover Crops — planting clovers, oilseed radish, buckwheat, and other types of cover crops on the farms, not for harvest, but to help the soil absorb more nutrients, lessening runoff.
The problem with these traditional approaches is that they haven’t been shown to be effective in dealing with the massive amounts of excessive nutrients from livestock runoff caused by modern animal farming. Large scale Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) simply produce too much manure.
Quantifiable evidence of the inadequacy of traditional approaches came into focus recently in the Chesapeake Bay region of the United States.
In May 2009, seeking to repair the quality of the nation’s freshwater resources, President Obama signed an executive order granting the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) powers to coordinate federal resources to restore water quality in the Chesapeake Bay — where the impact of livestock manure has been extensive.
Despite the enormous amount of taxpayer dollars spent on traditional approaches to reduce excess nitrogen and phosphorous below allowable levels, recent studies have shown that the Chesapeake Bay is expected to fall far short of meeting its critical 2017 reduction targets. Should the target not be met, the EPA can leverage its mandate to impose strict regulations, including the reduction of livestock production.
Addressing The Problem at The Source
To help the Chesapeake Bay region meet its goals, Bion Environmental Technologies of Old Bethpage, NY has come up with an approach that can be implemented by livestock farmers on-site, treating the livestock waste before it makes its way to the surrounding and downstream environment.
Bion’s solution utilizes mechanical, biological, chemical, and thermal processes to reduce by 90%, the harmful nitrogen and phosphorous from livestock waste. The resulting clean water can be safely re-used by the farm, or pumped back into the groundwater supply. The process also creates renewable energy in the form of cellulosic biomass and industry-standard byproducts like feed additives and organic fertilizer.
Bion’s promise has motivated Ed Schafer, former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, and former Governor of North Dakota, to join the company as Vice Chairman in 2010. Mr. Schafer has direct management responsibility over the company’s government relations, industry relations, and international initiatives in Asia and the Middle East.
A Successful Commercial Trial + Supportive Legislation + Public Demand
In August of 2011, the company completed its first commercial installation at Kreider Farms of Manheim, Pennsylvania. The installation began producing significant, measurable nutrient reductions within a few months.
One year later, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Production (PA DEP) certified the achieved nutrient reductions as meeting verification requirements for the regional nutrient credit trading program — an excess nutrients version of the more commonly known carbon “cap and trade” approach to pollution control.
Bion has since released studies asserting its approach to be up to 80% more cost effective than existing traditional methods.
Having demonstrated the efficacy of its solution, Bion is now actively supporting legislation that will allow the use of taxpayer funds to install its solutions at CAFOs first in the Chesapeake Bay, and then nationwide.
With consumers increasingly demanding responsibly produced foods, and the food supply chain becoming increasingly transparent, it’s not unreasonable to believe livestock farms that are better at managing manure pollution will gain a competitive advantage.