Poultry litter furnace test producing fertilizer and heat on farm
December 12, 2013
PORT REPUBLIC—A Rockingham County poultry grower is hoping his pioneering test of a poultry litter furnace could change the industry forever. Glenn Rodes installed the innovative burner in March, and already it’s producing both fertilizer ash and heat on his farm.
The furnace is able to process 180 pounds of litter per hour. It was installed because of Rodes’ interest in eco-friendly farming and his willingness to put some of his own funding into a field test. His turkey brooder house demands quite a bit of heat for young birds, and he said the furnace has delivered.
“We like a room temperature somewhere in the neighborhood of 90 degrees, and the furnace puts out approximately 140-degree air into the houses,” Rodes said.
“The valley has a high nutrient load with all the agriculture, so the phosphorus in the soil is building up all the time,” he said. “So part of the purpose of this test is to remove that phosphorus from this area into areas that have a phosphorus deficiency. A ton of litter has approximately 67 gallons’ equivalent of propane, and if we can extract that heat and have the ash left over for fertilizer, it’s just a really good situation.”
The poultry litter furnace is one initiative in a farm manure-to-energy program sponsored by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the Chesapeake Bay Funders Network, Virginia Cooperative Extension and other partners. Unlike other research projects, the furnace is far enough along that it can be put into a production agriculture setting.
Rodes processes his own soy and canola crops into biofuel for the skid loader he uses to fuel the poultry litter furnace. He’s hoping devices like the furnace can be used by many other farmers to reduce their energy costs while improving the environment.
“In agriculture you can either increase your income or reduce your costs. And reducing costs is often easier than increasing income,” he said. “We’re hoping that other farmers can see a project like this and think, `Maybe that will work on my farm.’
Data is still being collected on the poultry litter furnace, and the results will be shared with farmers across the country.
Media: Contact Norm Hyde, VFBF communications, at 804-290-1146.