Digested Organics Featured in Kewaunee County Star-News

Read the full story by Karen Yancey: “Digested Organics: manure for power, water, fertilizer



Digested Organics responds to recent Socially Responsible Agricultural Project (SRAP) report about CAFOs in Kewaunee, WI

Response to the Socially Responsible Agricultural Project Report on Dairies in Kewaunee County, Wisconsin

By: Robert B. Levine, Ph.D. and Christopher D. Maloney | Digested Organics, LLC


As a manure management technology provider that works with both CAFOs and smaller farms in Wisconsin on a daily basis, we believe it is important to provide an independent response to the recently published SRAP report “The Rap Sheets: Industrial Dairies in Kewaunee County, Wisconsin The Regulatory Failure of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources: A Threat to Public Health and the Environment” to:

  • Correct several critical errors that continue to be repeated in the media;
  • Refute the notion that these CAFO’s are willfully and negligently mismanaging their manure operations; and
  • To focus on how appropriate on-farm manure treatment can help mitigate the environmental impacts of current manure management practices.

We agree that groundwater contamination is a serious issue in Kewaunee County, especially considering the geological Karst structure throughout the region.[1]  It is not factual, however, to state that “As of June 2013, 30.85 percent of tested drinking water wells county-wide contained nitrates and/or dangerous E. coli bacteria at levels deemed unsafe for human consumption by state and federal authorities”(pg. 7).  We believe the authors are referencing a Kewaunee County Land & Water Conservation Department (LWCD) report to the County Board that summarized data on 483 well samples analyzed between August 2004 and June 2013.[2]

This was a voluntary testing program, whose stated goal is “to introduce private rural well owners to the importance of regular, periodic well testing” and does not represent a random sample of the estimated 4,600 wells in Kewaunee.  If we consider these to be the most up to date data, then it is accurate to say that 149 well samples, or 3.2% of all wells in the county and 30.8% of all samples tested, have been found at one point in the last 10 years to contain unsafe levels of E. coli bacteria and/or an elevated concentration of nitrate.

The severity of the issue notwithstanding, the report is wrong to focus exclusively on CAFOs as the source of the problem. Kewaunee has roughly 42,000 cows plus young-stock generating 550 million gallons of manure each year. And while the CAFOs maintain a large percentage of the herd, there are still 148 non-CAFO dairies in the county that store and spread manure. The authors of the SRAP report would have us believe that CAFOs intentionally and negligently contaminate groundwater, but after working closely with dairymen across the county and the State, we can confidently say that nothing could be further from the truth. CAFOs we talk with are actively investigating and/or pursuing on-farm manure treatment technologies that can rationally and cost competitively address the issue. We have yet to meet even one that doesn’t want to be a responsible environmental steward of the land and doesn’t take the issue of groundwater contamination seriously.

The authors suggest the best path forward is to get rid of CAFOs or at least “slow the rapid expansion and concentration of CAFOs in Wisconsin.”  This continues to be the now tired mantra of the Kewaunee CARES group and their affiliates and continues to ignore the fact that their stated goal would eliminate hundreds of jobs across this State’s largest industry as well as millions of dollars of rental income for local land owners.  We need more efficient dairy farms, not less, to meet the growing demand for food and Kewaunee’s CAFOs are some of our nation’s most productive.  We believe, as do most CAFOs, that growth in the dairy industry should not come at the expense of the environment. However, it is well understood that because of the unique Karst geography in this region and the seasonal pattern of heavy rainfalls, any sized dairy following even today’s best management practices would still likely at some point contribute to groundwater contamination.

Of course, the DNR could further tighten regulations on spreading, increase the number of inspections, add more fines and penalties for spills, etc., but all this would still barely move the dial on the groundwater issue. We believe it is time to have a more rational discussion on how we can help the dairy industry’s largest producers not only stay in business but grow, enabling even more jobs and more tax revenue for hurting counties like Kewaunee. It is time to get serious about adopting onsite manure treatment technologies that can start to address the challenge at its source—the farm.

Digested Organics is one of several technology companies working to provide manure management solutions to the dairy industry in Wisconsin. Backed by industry leading performance guarantees, our fully integrated solution recovers energy from manure, producing on-farm heat and power while reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and reclaims clean, reusable water free of nitrates and bacteria.  Our Nutrient Capture and Water Reclamation (NCWR™) system is suitable for the largest of CAFOs down to the smaller dairies and can turn 1,000 gallons of manure or digestate into 700 gallons of clean water and 300 gallons of concentrated liquid fertilizer.  A farmer using the NCWR™ system can reuse the water in his barn for flushing or washing, drinking water for the animals, or it can be discharged into a nearby waterway with the appropriate DNR permit.  This equates to a 70% reduction in the number of manure truck trips on County roads.

The concentrated fertilizer produced in our process undergoes a significant reduction in pathogens or 100% of the pathogens can be removed by installing a final pasteurization process. It can then be applied at the right time throughout the growing season and at lower doses than raw manure when the plant needs it most – increasing plant uptake, reducing runoff and groundwater contamination, and improving yields.  In sensitive areas, farmers can also dry the concentrated fertilizer, creating an exportable solid product worth up to $115/ton.

Our manure treatment technology is fully automated and cost competitive with any other system available today. It represents a solid investment for the future and for farmers looking to reduce their operating costs, gain efficiencies in their business, and reduce the environmental impact of their manure management operation.

Finally, we believe that Kewaunee, which has experienced more growth in their dairy industry than any other county in the State since 1983, has an opportunity to focus its collective energies around this important issue to help solve the actual problem, promote sustainable growth, and show strong leadership in the State. County Chairman Heuer and members of the board have already taken the first step by laying out a pro-business vision to solve the problem. We encourage all the stakeholders in Kewaunee County, including the authors of this SRAP report, to stop looking for someone to blame and force out of business and start working inclusively with County leadership, dairymen and others in the State trying to proactively solve this issue. It won’t happen overnight but it is possible to start today.


CEO Bobby Levine speaks at Telluride Lecture Series on Green Business


Bobby spoke at the annual Telluride Lecture series on Green Business on Saturday, April 13th.  The invited panel spoke about what it means to be “green”, how to practice “triple bottom line” accounting, and why it matters more than ever to do more with less.

For more information on the Telluride Association at the University of Michigan, check out their website: http://www.telluride-house.com/

Don Heilman speaks on The Farm Report

Don Heilman spoke recently on The Farm Report radio about how Digested Organics is working throughout Wisconsin to bring innovative energy, nutrient, and water management solutions to dairy farms.  Check out the clip here:

Chris Maloney to Speak at UW Oshkosh About Small Farm Digesters

Please come learn more about small farm digesters when Digested Organics COO Chris Maloney, along with other industry experts, discuss the latest innovations in the industry at the “Getting it Right” series held by the Environment, Research, and Innovation Center at UW Oshkosh.

For more info, click here.

“County Board chairman: Groundwater top issue in 2015” (Kewaunee County Star News)

Kewaunee County Board Chairman Ron Heuer gave a presentation at the January 20th board meeting to describe his plan for sustainable and cost effective manure management on dairy farms.

Download the presentation here.

The Kewaunee Country Star covered the event.  Read the article here.

Key goals for Kewaunee County mentioned in the presentation:

  • Establish a county initiative that would aggressively install on-farm manure treatment technology on all farms that are in excess of 200 animal units or are operating liquid manure operations no later than end of 2020
  • Phase 1 (end of 2017)
    • Treat the manure (digester and UF/RO) from 20,000 cows
    • Focus – install manure treatment systems on those farms located in the most highly impacted townships
    • Install minimum of 5 CAFO and 5 non-CAFO in time for Farm Tech Days – August 2017
    • Reduce the number of manure spreading vehicles on the road by 40%
    • Enable low-cost funding/loans for all farmers to participate in the program

Digested Organics is standing side-by-side with Kewaunee County administrators, DNR regulators, and most importantly farmers to ensure that the best technology available today is implemented as cost-effectively as possible.

Feel free to contact us if you’d like to learn more about our treatment solutions and how we are actively working throughout Wisconsin and the rest of the country to promote sustainable manure management.

Digested Organics Sponsors Dairy Strong Conference 2015

Digested Organics proudly sponsored the Dairy Strong Conference at Monona Terrace, Madison WI.  It was a great event with knowledgeable speakers and good networking opportunities.  We are encouraged to see Wisconsin farmers, regulators, and academics working together to help the dairy industry grow while being a good steward of the environment.

For more information on the event, check out the website here: http://dairystrong.org/ 

Kewaunee County Chairman Ron Heuer on Manure Management

Kewaunee County, Wisconsin is at the forefront of changing how manure is managed. After decades of land spreading manure, they have seen a steady increase in groundwater contamination that has an estimated 30% of the county’s wells unsafe for drinking water.  County Chairman Ron Heuer writes on his blog (http://www.ronheuer.com/) about this issue and points to deploying on-farm technologies like the BioEliminator™ as critical to solving their groundwater problem. Chairman Heuer stated at a recent board meeting…”there are a number of companies that are moving quickly to provide these types of treatment solutions to dairy operators in Wisconsin, which are both affordable, highly efficient and commercially viable. Compared to traditional large scale anaerobic digestion/nutrient management systems which come in around $5000-$7000 per cow, require grants and/or subsidies and are just not scalable down to the smaller dairies, these new systems are now in the range of $1000-$2000 per cow, have compelling performance metrics and and can be installed at virtually any size dairy. As a result of these technology advancements, I believe there are some new and exciting opportunities for Kewaunee County to not only address our own groundwater quality issues but to help our important diary industry thrive and grow in an environmentally and economically sustainable way. And finally, I believe we have the opportunity to demonstrate real leadership and innovation in the State and become a model for other counties with similar issues”.

News: “Food-Waste Recycling Faces Hiccups”

See what the Wall Street Journal has to say about food waste recycling….

“I see a nationwide push on this, because it’s the biggest segment in the solid waste pile today,” said Michael OConnell, executive director of Rhode Island Resource Recovery Corp., the quasi-state body that runs the landfill. But “the infrastructure’s not there” for food recycling. 

With a BioEliminator™ Organic Waste Treatment System, you don’t need a nearby compost facility or commercial-scale anaerobic digester–you can divert your organic waste from the landfill by converting it to energy and reusable water onsite.

Please give us a call today to learn more!  734-418-8016 or email at info@digestedorganics.com