June 8, 2015 – The USDA awarded Reactive Innovations, LLC a grant to develop a nutrient recovery system for agricultural enterprises that recovers valuable nutrients from animal manure. Since World War II, the availability of relatively cheap mineral fertilizers has been a major factor spurring specialization of production agriculture, in which crop (cereal) production has been increasingly separated from livestock production. One important consequence of this has been the stranding of large amounts of nutrients in livestock manures that originated from cereal production, but which are not recycled back to the source for the next production cycle. Equally large amounts of nutrients from cereal production are also stranded within the human food chain, and frequently dumped into landfills as waste. In the longer term, these are not sustainable practices.
In many parts of the world, phosphorus is considered a non-renewable resource, with current supplies of high quality phosphates likely to become limiting within the next 25 years, partially a result of increasing environmental issues linked to phosphate mining (water table protection and fluoride byproducts) which may limit accessibility to deposits, resulting in greater instability in phosphate fertilizer costs. Likewise, the cost of producing synthetic nitrogen fertilizers from atmospheric sources is continually increasing because of the dependence on natural gas, while also having its own environmental impacts (high energy consumption, greenhouse gas emissions). Both of these issues result in increasing the demand and value of livestock manure nutrients.
Reactive has been developing an innovative black water treatment system that recovers nutrients, in particular phosphates from a slurry of manure (black water). This technology produces a valuable product and will help restore the agricultural nutrient balance in manure thus reducing the impact of phosphorous eutrophication which leads to a number of environmental issues in lakes, rivers and estuaries.