The Taste of Tomorrow

We have some really great news from Wisconsin (ancestral home of the TofT author) – and it has nothing to do with the Packers, the Badgers,  or the effort to recall governor Scott Walker.

The first anaerobic dry fermentation biodigester in the United States is up and running at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh.

Now, the three words dry fermentation biodigester might not immediately electrify most Americans.  But the upside is revolutionary, Holy Graily.

According to a post in one of our favorite blogs, Seedstock, the alternative power system has been producing clean, renewable electricity from plant and food waste to supply electricity and heat for the university campus since Oct. 3. The site reported that UW-O staff and students had been stockpiling agricultural plant and food waste as feedstock in airless chambers and feeding it into the dry anaerobic biodigester since last summer in anticipation of bringing it online.

A steady, source of clean renewable electricity would be a tremendous breakthrough for the type of clean, environmentally-friendly indoor fish farming that is profiled in The Taste of Tomorrow, the book.

A short description of the science as culled from Seedstock:

Anaerobic digestion consists of a series of processes in which microorganisms break down biodegradable material in the absence of oxygen. Anaerobic digestion reduces the emission of methane gas, CO2, and “non-methane organic compounds” or NMOCs into the atmosphere.  Anaerobic digestion is also used as a renewable energy source as the process produces a methane and carbon dioxide rich biogas suitable for energy production. As the name indicates, ‘dry,’ as opposed to ‘wet,’ anaerobic digesters break down dry organic materials with moisture content of less than 75%, such as agricultural waste and plant material traditionally left over after harvesting a crop.

For a fuller description of the work at Oshkosh, please check out the post on Seedstock’s site and the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh report.

Folks at Oshkosh expect the anaerobic digester to generate enough electricity in the start-up phase alone to meet 5% of the university’s electricity and heating needs. This is great news: as it demonstrates that clean, renewable energy can be produced from throwaways like corn stalks, husks, leaves, and discarded food.  According to the University, a second anaerobic digester is being planned for a dairy farm, and generate electricity from the methane produced by the decomposition of dairy cow poop.


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