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Wisconsin Firm Converts Waste into Soil Replacement

A Wisconsin-based anaerobic digestion company and renewable energy development business are relying on a little ingenuity to use what were once waste streams to create an organic byproduct to grow their business.

Cenergy USA, a Little Rock, Ark.-based company focused on the development and financing of renewable energy and energy efficiency projects, has developed Magic Dirt through the use of digested solids from the DVO Inc. system.

Robert Joblin, president of Cenergy USA, says he and his business partner, Ted Sniegocki, came up with the Magic Dirt formula when they were trying to figure out a commercial use for the fiber from the DVO digester.

“We have DVO digesters on the renewable energy projects we have developed,” he says. “In 2008, Cenergy USA developed and is a partner in the renewable energy project at Big Sky West Dairy (in Gooding, Idaho). The DVO digester is an integral part of that project. Now, we use only DVO technologies on the projects we develop.”

Magic Dirt was introduced in 2014 as a replacement for potting soil and peat moss that is certified 100 percent bio-based under the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Bio-Preferred Program and approved for organic production by the State of Idaho's Department of Agriculture.

In October 2014, Magic Dirt won the 2014 Bioproduct Innovation of the Year Award from the Bioproducts World Showcase and Conference sponsored by the Bioproducts Innovation Center at Ohio State University and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The digester byproduct used in Magic Dirt, sold at stores like Walmart and garden supply outlets in the U.S., comes from a variety of waste streams, including animal manure, fruits and vegetables from distribution centers, ice cream manufactures, and slaughterhouse waste processed through the DVO Inc. mixed plug-flow system.

 “One large benefit of our mixed plug-flow digester system is that we have a system that provides a first in, first out treatment of all wastes,” says Melissa VanOrnum, marketing manager for DVO Inc. in Chilton, Wis. “This allows for better biodegradation of the wastes resulting in enhanced biogas production, greater pathogen destruction, and much lower COD discharge levels than our competitors’ systems.”

VanOrnum says the DVO digester system differs from traditional continuous stirred tank reactor digesters because of its plug flow design and mixing and heating system that achieves 20 to 30 percent more biogas.

“We are also cheaper to construct, utilizing local concrete and labor, and have an advantage in lower cost construction techniques,” she says. “More biogas per ton of input also means that we have a higher quality effluent with substantially less odor, pathogens, and residual energy in our effluent solids and liquid. This means that the effluent is more tolerable to neighbors, and is a better fertilizer or soil amendment.”  

DVO Inc. has more than 100 digesters at 87 sites in 17 states the U.S., in addition to several international projects. The company’s first digester was built in 2001 and it is still operational today.

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