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Commentary: How Ag Tech is Solving our Biggest Challenges


By Gary Truitt

Imagine a scenario where Indiana communities were begging dairy farms to locate in their area. Some might even provide tax incentives. This would be quite a change from the current situation where many communities actively work to keep dairy farms, especially larger dairy operations, out of their area. One of the biggest objections these communities have is the waste produced by dairy farms. Concerns about  ground water contamination are typically trotted out with lots of health scares  to accompany them. Now, a technological breakthrough could change all that.

In Lake Village, IN on the Donald and Cheri De Jong, Natural Prairie Dairy Farms, a new system is operational that transforms cow poop into clean water and dry organic fertilizer. “The Varcor will revolutionize agriculture as it provides a clean water supply and natural fertilizer that’s economically viable and not dependent upon the petrochemical industry,” commented Donald De Jong, co-owner and CEO at Natural Prairie Dairy. “Not only does the Varcor system create clean water, it also generates dry NPK powder that also contains all the micronutrients that plants require. It’s a game-changer, indeed.”

How exactly does the Varcor work? It takes the “the manure from a cow” and turns it into clean water to hydrate the cows (and fields) and dry, organic, pathogen-free fertilizer to nourish the crops. Natural Prairie Dairy developed the Varcor system in a joint venture with Sedron Agriculture, a division of Sedron Technologies. Sedron Technologies is led by Peter Janicki, who previously had partnered with The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to develop the Janicki Omni Processor, which processes human waste into clean, drinkable water.

The issue of manure is one of the biggest environmental issues facing the livestock industry. Increasing regulations on the management, uses, and transportation of animal waste continue to pose challenges for producers. Yet, innovative technology is providing answers. The process that turns manure into electricity has been around for a while but is being refined and is proving to be increasingly practical on many livestock farms.

While much of the focus of the ag tech revolution is on increasing production and lowering costs, we are starting to see innovations that deal with some of agriculture’s most challenging environmental issues.  More funding, needs to be directed into this area as farmers seek a way to meet the food demands of the world and the environmental demands of society. As agriculture adopts new technology that reduces a farm’s environmental impact and, in some cases, may actually improve the environment,  perhaps communities will welcome and help protect farmland and farming operations.  Environmentalists, regulators, and food marketers will come to see modern farming practices as beneficial.