From the Editor: Making manure mainstream
By Stephanie Gordon
In late October, Toyota announced that its new electric vehicle, Mirai, could be powered for a year using the manure of just one cow. Essentially, hydrogen extracted from the manure of one cow would be enough to provide enough fuel to run the car for a year of average mileage, according to an interview the company’s chief technology officer did with The Irish Times. This is huge given the backdrop of a changing climate, rising demand for alternative sources of energy, and a growing environmentally conscious consumer base. But, manure isn’t new – it’s always been here, and it’s becoming mainstream as more consumer-facing companies start to notice its potential.
New digester projects, where dairy or hog operations are connecting to the electric grid to help provide an alternative source of renewable energy, are popping up on a regular basis. Whether it’s blending into a pipeline, being applied on corn, or being spread on the freeway through vehicles, manure has entered the mainstream. It’s great to see that manure is spreading – pun intended – but it’s not yet at the level where it’s being accepted with open arms.
At a recent conference for Canadian farm writers, a discussion sprung up about the urban-rural divide in British Columbia. Anecdotes were shared of urban neighbors moving into rural areas and complaining of odor during times when manure was being applied. But, as you’ll see in some of the articles within this issue – one man’s manure is another man’s treasure. Little do those neighbors know, manure is becoming a sought-after commodity. So, while Toyota may be onboard with manure, it’s important that customers join them too.
Some kinks in logistics still need to be smoothed out, but there’s no doubt that manure has potential beyond the field. Take the story on page 10, for example: manure is being turned into planting pots and biodegradable packaging material. And, on page 14, you’ll read about researchers who have joined forces to map out the manure hot spots in the world to better connect those who are looking for manure and those who have manure. It’s important that those looking to work with manure are able to access it for manure to continue to grow as a resource outside of agriculture.
As the winter season comes upon us, take the time to see the potential in your own manure. What kind of partnerships can be built? How can manure turn into an investment in a sustainable future? As you flip through the pages of this issue, may a spark be ignited that brings on new opportunities in 2020. Have a wonderful holiday season!