Turning Manure Into Energy

June 28, 2021

Sustaining the natural environment that supports MALT-Community Business Partner Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Company, located on MALT-protected Giacomini Dairy, is all about making sure as little as possible gets wasted. That philosophy extends to the management of the dairy’s animal waste. In 2009, Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Company co-owners and sisters Diana, Jill and Lynn Giacomini installed a bio digester.

Here’s How it Works

The process starts in the barns. Using recycled water, manure is flushed into a machine that separates solids from liquids. During this separation process, the solid waste is composted — much of it later used in bedding for the cows or fertilizer for the dairy’s pastures. The liquid manure goes into a holding pond covered by a large, balloon-like tarp. In a lot of ways, what occurs under the tarp is similar to what happens inside a cow’s four-chambered stomach. In this version of digestion, microbes feed on the nutrient-rich waste to create methane gas. Instead of being released into the atmosphere, that gas remains trapped under the tarp where it is captured by perforated pipes and cleaned by an air injection process called “scrubbing.”

The bio digester at Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Company turns manure into energy.
Photo: Lynn Bagley
The bio digester up close and personal. Photo: Lynn Bagley

The Final Product

The final product is clean natural gas. This gas operates a combustion engine, which produces energy to power the dairy and creamery buildings — about 65% of Giacomini Dairy’s total on-farm needs. It’s what the Giacomini family calls an environmental win-win. Less methane is released into the atmosphere and less outside energy is required to run the company’s milking and cheese-making operations.

Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Company’s methane digester is just one example of the company’s overall commitment to renewable energy and low-impact farming. The company cares deeply about the health of the planet, and the Giacomini sisters know that cows raised in a healthy environment produce better quality milk, and that their sustainability practices translate directly into better tasting cheese.

Happy cows on MALT-protected Giacomini Ranch. Photo: Lynn Bagley

MALT is proud to partner with local businesses like Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Company that share our goal of protecting Marin’s agricultural community, local economy, access to healthy food and clean air and water.

Learn More

Learn more about how family and innovation sits at the foundation of Point Reyes Farmstead Creamery.

Want to learn more ways dairies can lead the way in agricultural sustainability? Diana Giacomini Hagan, co-owner and CFO of Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Company, recently spoke at Sustainable Conservation’s virtual event, “Feeding the Future: Can Dairies be Environmentally Sustainable?”.

Interested in becoming a Community Business Partner? If your company wants to join in and help us preserve Marin’s farmland, forever, please contact Jennifer Carlin at jcarlin[at]malt.org or visit our website.

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