In partnership with the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, INTAG conducted a research study on the use of INTAG patented bioreactors to process pelleted poultry waste into a nutrient solution for crops cultivated both in hydroponic and field settings. The goal of this study was two-fold: to demonstrate the ability of INTAG bioreactors to eliminate poultry waste, and the show that nutrient-rich crops can be cultivated from the resulting effluent of INTAG bioreactors.
When comparing parameters of the input poultry sludge to the effluent produced by INTAG bioreactor beds, there are a few key reductions that occur. Firstly, ammonia nitrogen levels fell from 152 ppm to just .42 ppm. In a similar fashion, the BOD and COD levels dropped from 1270 and 1250 respectively, to an undetectable level of BOD, and COD of only 16 ppm. The Fixed Total Solids were reduced from 536 to 217 ppm, and Total Dissolved were reduced from 748 to 235 ppm. Total Organic Carbon fell from 284 to 4.3 ppm, and the Volatile Total Solids were reduced from 755 to 43 ppm. It is important to note that the ammonia levels of the input waste sludge dropped from 135 ppm to under 1.0 ppm due to the rapid conversion of ammonia to usable nitrates.
Conversely, the Dissolved Oxygen concentrations of the sludge waste increased from 0.11 ppm to >4.0 ppm.
Additionally, a noted decrease in both phosphorus and pH were found. The microbiological quality of the input sludge and processed effluent is key to safely utilizing the effluent for plant growth either within the bioreactor beds themselves, or as an irrigable nutrient solution. When looking at the microbiology of the water, attention should be paid to the levels of fecal coliforms found in the effluent, as the concentrations of fecal coliforms determine how the system effluent can be utilized in agricultural settings.
Building on the resulting baseline numbers, INTAG’s research, and the development team are testing varying levels of nutrient loading rates to determine the most efficient Hydraulic Loading Rates, and Hydraulic Retention Times for particular crops. Additionally, INTAG is working to determine nutrient additive rates for particular crops, depending on the waste source used in different configurations, such as but not limited to poultry, bovine, and porcine manures, bidigestate, or human sewage.
Responding to the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture’s interest in improving water quality in the Commonwealth, INTAG’s bioreactor process has proven to provide a versatile and robust technique for converting waste-to-nutrients. Further, remediation of nutrients from poultry manure and bedding is key to meeting Pennsylvania water quality goals,
especially in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. Poultry manure and bedding wastes provide an ideal remediation target as
Pennsylvania, as a whole, was 10th in the nation for poultry and egg sales in 2012 ($1.4 billion). Statewide this
industry generated wastes rich in Nitrogen and Phosphorous; an estimated annual total of 13,329,737 lbs. N. and 30,796,395 lbs. P.
Continued research and development are vital to providing leadership in the campaign to clean up the waters of the Commonwealth and the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. In 2013, it was shown that roughly 13 million pounds of nitrogen enter the Chesapeake Bay per year from Pennsylvania. Reaching a more sustainable input requires an 80% reduction of nitrogen loads by 2025. For combined nitrogen and phosphorus remediation in the watershed, over 75% must come from remediation of agricultural waste streams – by both keeping them out of the water and by getting them out of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. Furthermore, 80% of this reduction must come from the 34,000 farms of 150 acres or less. INTAG’s research, analyses, and the publication of the results thereof provides a viable contribution to the collective wisdom of sustainable remediation techniques.
Pennsylvania has a distinct and immediate opportunity to make a lasting positive impact on water quality within the Commonwealth and greater Chesapeake Bay Watershed. With over 15,000 miles of streams and rivers, the Commonwealth provides 50% of the freshwater to the bay annually, and over 90% of the freshwater to the upper
bay. These streams and rivers provide critical recreational and drinking water sources within the Commonwealth. Within the Chesapeake Bay watershed portion of the Commonwealth are approximately 34,000 small farms, under 150 acres in size. These farms contribute strongly to Pennsylvania’s economy as well as the nutrient load in Commonwealth waters and to the Bay. INTAG patented bioreactors offer a method for remediating agro-industrial waste from the watershed.