Texas A&M chemical engineers believe that the technology that turns biodegradable substances into fuel will become commercially viable in about ten years, and when that happens it will make a big impact on production agriculture.
“That’ll probably take us, oh maybe 10 years or so to eat through all of the municipal soild waste and sewage sludge. Then once that’s exhausted, the next logical thing to do is say let’s go after agricultural residues and agricultural wastes.”
Texas A&M Chemical Engineering Professor Mark Holtzapple says the next step would be to start growing crops for the purpose of making bio-fuels.
“So that it means higher agricultural income. You can grow food, you can grow fiber, now you can grow fuel, and so it just creates a greater demand for agricultural products.”
Holtzapple believes turning food like corn into fuel is not sustainable, and the process he’s been working on shows promise for creating an alternative feed for cattle as well.
“That’s the very first step in our process, is to take the biomass and essentially beat it up so that it becomes digestible. Now at that point you can do two things with it. You can put it into our fuel process to make it into gasoline or you can say now I have a digestible product, I could feed it to cattle which could be used to make beef or milk.”
Chicken feathers ar almost 100% protein.
“We can take that protein, chicken feather protein, and make it essentially 100% digestible in a rumen environment, so again we’re taking a waste material and transforming it into something that’s useful. You could take corn stover which normally is left on the field to rot, well you could gather that up and transform it into something that’s almost as digestible as the corn grain itself, and if you take the chicken feather syrup and combine it with this corn stover you get a balanced feed.”
Holtzapple believes that this is part of the technology that will both fuel and feed the world of the future.
“This, in my opinion is the next phase of that green revolution that Norman Borlaug started 30 or 40 years ago.”
I’m Kailey Carey, tracing the journey our food, fiber, and fuel makes, From The Ground Up.