Reduction of odors, greenhouse gases and water consumption; Quebec manure processing technology has been tested since the fall in a Chaudière-Appalaches hog operation. The company behind the innovation says it is already the subject of international solicitation.
Raynald Bouffard is full of praise for his new slurry treatment system.
"It's revolutionary! “, Without hesitation, launches the pig producer, owner with his son and their spouses of three facilities in the Chaudière-Appalaches region – maternity homes where piglets are born, which are then sold to breeders.
It is in their Sainte-Agathe-de-Lotbinière operation that the Solugen company installed its very first processing unit, to make it a technological showcase.
Beyond its ecological virtues, the technology developed by the Lévis company represents a solution to the main constraint of any pig farm: spreading.
Due to the liquid nature of pig manure, its spreading requires large areas of fields, which leads producers to transport it over long distances to be able to dispose of it.
This represents costs of $ 60,000 per year for Raynald Bouffard’s family business.
However, the Solugen system enabled it to increase its operation in Sainte-Agathe-de-Lotbinière from 600 to 1,500 sows without having to find additional fields for slurry.
"It makes expansion plans easier," says the producer.
Fully automated and electric, the system uses 30 kilowatt hours to process one cubic meter of slurry, which in Quebec amounts to $ 2.10, the company calculates.
Reduce odors and GHGs
The treatment system developed by Solugen does not require a manure tank; it operates continuously, like a small sewage treatment plant.
Therefore, it eliminates greenhouse gases (GHG) "before they are produced", boasts the president of the company, André Beaulieu Blanchette, explaining that most of the methane is generated when the slurry "begins to to digest oneself "in the pits.
This also eliminates the GHGs associated with the transportation and spreading of slurry, in addition to limiting the phenomenon of soil compaction caused by the passage of machinery.
And without storing or spreading liquid manure, "up to 95%" of odors are eliminated, he adds.
Producers are allowed to quadruple their production at the same site, without increasing their environmental impact, and to have social acceptability.
André Beaulieu Blanchette, president of Solugen
Without a pit, producers no longer have to fear rain and snow, which can increase slurry volumes by 20 to 30% on an annual basis, adds Beaulieu Blanchette.
The system extracts the nutrients in solid form from the slurry, which can be resold, and makes the remaining 84% water drinkable. This water can be reused for livestock purposes, including for watering animals.
"I drank some of that water, it's very good," Raynald Bouffard assured The Press.
Solugen first targets the market for new pigsties or expansions, but believes that its system could also interest existing facilities if there were financial assistance measures to mitigate the cost of acquisition.
"We are working to return the subsidies that there used to be," says André Beaulieu Blanchette.
Since his first unit started operating in the fall, André Beaulieu Blanchette says he receives "three to four emails a day" from people or businesses abroad who have an interest in his system.
He also went to Europe to meet potential customers and partners.
There, his system is also interesting for the water savings it can generate, he says, adding that some producers pay up to 5 euros ($ 7.32) per cubic meter, against "a few cents" at Quebec.
His biggest challenge today is managing the growth of his business.
"We don't want to be too scattered," he said, explaining his interest in the Quebec pork industry, which has a turnover of $ 1.6 billion and is looking to grow.
"International demand is increasing all the time," he said, adding that he preferred production to increase in Quebec, where it has a better environmental footprint, than elsewhere.
"Greenhouse gases in China affect us too," he says.
But Solugen wants to grow slowly, in particular to be able to work to reduce the size of its system.
Currently, this requires a 15 m x 18 m building to treat 2000 liters of slurry per hour, which replaces four 40 m diameter pits, but André Beaulieu Blanchette intends to do even better.
How it works ?
The manure treatment system developed by Solugen differs from existing biological methods, widespread in Europe, which degrade nitrogen, but not phosphorus, says Solugen President André Beaulieu Blanchette. The slurry is first passed through a centrifuge, allowing the solid portion, which contains phosphorus, to be recovered for spreading as fertilizer. The liquid is then subjected to azeotropic distillation, a potassium concentrate and an ammoniacal nitrogen concentrate are removed. These are sold to industrialists, in particular fertilizer manufacturers. The remaining water, 84% of the original volume, can be used for operational purposes.
Risk of overflows: Quebec special measure
The fear of witnessing overflows of manure pits during the winter or next spring prompted Quebec to exceptionally authorize certain pork producers to spread out of season, in December. Referring to "apprehended overflows" due to the late spring and early winter, especially in Montérégie, the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, André Lamontagne, spoke in a press release of a "measure punctual ”while committing“ to go further ”to avoid such a situation from happening again. The government directive stipulated various conditions, including the need that the spreading be done under the supervision of an agronomist and that it be limited to the volumes “required to ensure continuity of farming activities and to avoid overflow of pits d 'here in spring 2020'.