Sunday, August 24, 2008

Animal Processed Fiber

To some people, its odor is the smell of money.

To others, it signifies the nutrients that provide life to the garden.

Farm wives find that it is the bane of their existence, always creeping into the house and overpowering the smell of the ammonia in their cleanser.

For farm dogs, a specimen produced by a horse provides a tasty mid-afternoon snack.

In its dry form, it serves equally well as a Frisbee or as fuel for a campfire.

Chickens, if not confined, will excrete it almost exclusively on sidewalks.

If you are a rancher, chances are good that you have stepped in it today.

Agriculturalists have utilized it in creative ways throughout the centuries, and because of its – er - odoriferousness, it has acquired a number of euphemisms to protect its delicate nature.

Whether you refer to the substance as compost, fertilizer, discharge, muck, dung, manure, slop, or any other not-so-affectionate term, one phrase you have probably not associated with the stuff is “animal processed fiber.”

That is precisely what a group of scientists in Iowa has termed the inevitable byproduct of ranching. What is even more remarkable is that they are attempting to utilize it to create a “value-added” product.

Some ranchers are already benefiting from the accumulation of manure on their property. A quick trip to the local greenhouse will verify that some people will pay a premium for a bag full of – er – compost.

But if the past few decades have taught us anything, it is that consumers value a product in end form more than the raw goods. That is where the Iowa scientists come in.

They are developing such products as fuels and building materials using the same material that you have probably piled up behind the barn with your tractor.

Deland Myers and a team of scientists have determined that animals use natural processes to glue together particles of fiber in their excretions, similar to the process manufacturers use to create particleboard. When Myers and his team added additional materials, such as corn stalks, to the manure, they discovered a sturdy building material resulted.

Because they were conscious of the marketing weaknesses that may have a negative impact on the sales of such materials, the scientists wisely devised a new moniker for manure: animal processed fiber.

While people may still balk at the thought of living in a house made of – er – manure, in today’s culture of recycling, the idea just may catch on. I would wager that those who live close to the waste lagoons of large livestock-producing corporations would rather the stuff was processed and in their walls than simmering in the hot summer sun and wafting over the fences to intrude upon their summer barbecues.

Like all potentially successful value-added ideas, this venture has some obstacles. But the thought of using up something smelly that accumulates in our backyards is encouraging – especially during an election year.


Rose Davis said...

I know it smells bad but it is the most natural thing you could use on a farm. I just make sure we all have our boots on when we go out! Blessings, Rose

Anonymous said...

I love your sense of humor!


The W.O.W. factor said...

This is interesting! Not so many years ago, there were the complaints about the "methane gases" being dispenced in the air we breathe via these same 'frisbees'. I rather enjoy the aroma, vs city smog, diesel fumes,& overpopulated people 'smells'.
Ya know...there just might be enough around here, we could build ourselves a true "green house". Thanks for this information on this new "technology" in the works.

Preppymom said...

When I travel home I know I have hit the county line by the aroma. As a child wehn I complained of the smell of tires and gasoline from her clothes when she returned home from the car dealership, she would tell me that was the smell of foodon the table and clothes on my back. I know she was right.

Farm Fresh Jessica said...

It won't stink by then!

But we did have to shut the windows last night to keep the smell of the fresher stuff out!

jim Torti, Ph.D. said...

I too love your sense of humor and good instincts about real opportunities....

My company makes a product called ECOR® ECOR® is a new material- imagine if you were in the early stage development of plastic- that's where we are at today...

A great place to start to understand what we do, see What is ECOR®?: You can also see how we make the product, at ECOR® video:

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