Dane County breaks ground for nutrient concentration system

Wisconsin State Farmer

Area farmers joined AQUA Innovations along with Dane County Executive Joe Parisi in Middleton for the groundbreaking of a Nutrient Concentration System (NCS), a revolutionary cow manure processing system.

A groundbreaking of a Nutrient Concentration System (NCS), a cow manure processing system was held in Middleton. From left, Dave Merritt, Dane County director of policy & program development; Greg Ziegler, Ziegler Dairy; Art Meinholz, Blue Star Dairy; Will Hensen, Henson Brothers Dairy; Joe Parisi, Dane County Executive; Chris Lenzendorf, AQUA Innovations president; Duane Toenges, Dynamic Group; Paul Heath, Gundersen Health System; Frank Winters, AQUA Innovations director of business development; Guy Selsmeyer, Northern Biogas president; and Jeff LaViolette, Northern Biogas civil/environmental engineer.

This emerging technology, manufactured by Wisconsin-based AQUA Innovations, separates nutrients, virtually eliminates pathogens, and creates three separate streams from raw cow manure, including distilled water. The other nutrient rich streams, void of the majority of phosphorous, can be strategically applied to fields during the growing season rather than over-applying in spring and fall, which is the current standard practice.

Dane County is the first governmental body to install an NCS in Wisconsin – leading the way in phosphorous reduction in and around our lakes and rivers. Phosphorus, which exists in manure, is a major source of pollution that turns lakes green with algae. One pound of phosphorous can produce 300 to 500 pounds of algae.

Joe Parisi

“Dane County is excited to partner with AQUA Innovations and three family dairy farms on this cutting-edge technology turning manure into clean water and further reducing phosphorus from entering our lakes,” said Joe Parisi, Dane County Executive. “The addition of this water treatment technology to the existing manure digester facility gives us another important tool to keep our lakes clean and strengthen our farm economy.”

Dane County purchased the $1.6 million NCS technology from AQUA Innovations and will lease the system to Springfield Clean Water, LLC to operate. The NCS will receive manure from the manure digester owned by Gundersen Health System.

Dane County is home to about 250 dairy farms with 55,000 dairy cows that produce nearly 1.5 billion pounds of milk that results in more than $550 million per year for the dairy industry and 4,000 jobs. Those cows also produce over two billion pounds of manure each year.

“Dane County should be applauded for being an early adopter of an innovative solution to our growing phosphorus problem,” said Chris Lenzendorf, president of AQUA Innovations. “Aside from the environmental benefits of reclaiming water and concentrating nutrients, the NCS reduces the volume of cow manure, helping maintain the integrity of our roads with decreased large truck traffic.”

Farmers spend more than $3.5 million annually on hauling and applying manure in Dane County alone.

Public benefits

  • Returning 35,000 gallons of clean water per day back to either surface water or groundwater.
  • Phosphorus run-off reduction. Phosphorous is separated while other nutrients are applied strategically when the crops can utilize them at root level, reducing run-off and minimizing the use of commercial fertilizer.
  • 3,000 fewer semi-trucks per year on the roads. The volume needed to apply nutrients is reduced, which means less wear and tear on town and county roads.
  • Decreased odor from stored manure and virtual elimination of pathogens.

Farmer benefits

  • Clean/usable water by-product.
  • Improved crop growth. The nitrogen and potassium can be applied at more precise times when the crop needs the nutrients (i.e. split applications or prior to planting) instead of applying manure when the crops are not able to utilize the nutrients.
  • Decreased manure hauling/storing costs.
  • Decreased odor from stored manure and virtual elimination of pathogens.
  • Sustainable balance between farm and environment.