Future Farm Food and Fuel was founded in the Spring of 2008. It all started in 2007 when the methane digesters on our dairies were in place and the manure processing system was installed on Emerald Dairy. When driving by the facilities you would see an eternal flame glowing in the night sky and when you entered the manure processing facility in the middle of winter it was a comfortable 80 degrees with an exhaust fan running. We had been working on how to most effectively use the methane being produced and with transportation costs increasing we decided to look at a way to consume the gas being produced on site. The easy solution was to create electricity with a generator but since electricity generation is still very inefficient and not cost effective we decided to look for something that could create value and revenue beyond the amount we could get for electricity alone.
In the fall of 2007, Future Farm Food and Fuel set up a test facility in the manure processing building at our Emerald Dairy in an effort to test not only how we could use the methane, but also the heat from processing the manure. Our initial test was to create a photo bioreactor to grow a strain of algae that not only could create oil to produce biodiesel from, but also to scrub CO2 that comes in the production and burning of biomethane. We perfomed a great deal of research and learned as much as we could from European sources (they are ahead of the US in biofuel production technology) and also researched leading biofuel producers in the US. We ended up teaming up with a number of organizations that continue to help us grow in this field. We have collaborated with the University of Minnesota, The University of Wisconsin, Ecogenics out of Tennessee, and Sartech out of Minnesota. All of these organizations are helping us find the best use for our algae production.
Future Farm Food and Fuel is now running a 600-gallon system full of algae and we are working on the best applications for it. In the evolution of growing algae, we worked extensively with Mr. Marc Cardosa of Ecogneics Research Center in Tennessee. He has had over 30 years of experience in growing algae but during the time we were starting our algae cultures he encouraged us to grow Tilapia fish in our environment because we had access to a lot of heat and warm water. We brought in 5000 Tilapia fingerlings, and learned how to grow them using the resources we had. While learning to grow Tilapia, we did some research and found that there were a number of people growing plants using the effluent from the fish. With this information, we started to learn about hydroponics and how we could use fish effluent to grow plants in a hydroponics environment without vast amounts of chemical fertilizers. This led us to our consultants who specialize in aquaponics, which is the combined process of growing fish and hydroponic plants in the same circulating water. More specifically, it is a process in which fish waste is broken down and cycled through ponds where plant roots absorb the waste as nutrients; purifying the water for the fish. The purified water is then cycled back into the fish tanks where they add their waste back into the water and the dynamic cycle starts again. With the growing cost of fuel, the trend to buy local, and the plentiful source of energy derived from literally waste manure we have found a way to create a great green revenue source using the resources from our farm.
We have constructed a 27,000 square foot greenhouse that is growing Tilapia, lettuce, and herbs, currently powered by waste vegetable oil, with plans in place to have heat and electricity produced from the methane produced from one of our dairies by this winter. This facility currently has the capacity to produce 500,000 heads of lettuce and 30,000 pounds of Tilapia that will all be grown in a carbon neutral environment using no pesticides or chemicals. This is just the start to our waste energy use from farms so please continue to visit and buy our products to support this green and growing movement.