AS waste, 1.4 million tonnes of pig poo is a problem. As a source of energy and fertiliser, it's an asset.
China, home to 1.8 million pig farms and 700 million pigs, wants to make this waste-to-energy transition, and Australian researchers are helping them do it.
Collaboration between the Adelaide-based Cooperative Research Centre for Contamination Assessment and Remediation of the Environment (CRC CARE), Chinese firm HLM Asia PL and Huazhong University of Science and Technology has developed a two-step anaerobic biodigester for treating bulk pig waste.
Imaginatively trademarked as pooCARE, the technology in each biodigester is capable of remediating 200t of piggery waste daily (73,000t a year), producing 380 cubic metres of biogas daily (worth around A$41,000 a year as a heating fuel), and producing 5600t of fertiliser worth A$550,000 a year.
“Our technology doesn’t just solve a big and rather smelly problem for China – it does so for the world," said CRC CARE managing director Professor Ravi Naidu.
"Pork consumption is rising globally due to the increased demand for meat, and this development - which recycles the energy and nutrients in pig waste - makes a major contribution to the sustainability of this industry.
“CRC CARE has also been working with the pork industry in Australia, including the Pork CRC, to transfer the biodigester technology from China to farms in Australia.
"This will enable Australian piggeries to gain a new income stream from their waste, which will help support farm operations, grow algae and produce biochar to provide soil nutrients, and increase the sequestration of carbon in soil."
CRC CARE recently earned the federal government's 2013 Star Award, which recognises CRCs working with small and medium enterprises to drive innovation
“Pig poo might seem like simple stuff, but it creates a very complex set of environmental problems, which I am pleased to say the CRC CARE/China team has managed to overcome with some lateral thinking and sound, practical, affordable technologies,” Ravi said.
The technology, which has gone through proof-of-concept and is now being scaled up for enterprise use, is likely to be picked up internationally in countries like India, as well as in Australia and China.