New technology a game changer for dairy industry

The Janicki Omniprocessor prototype in Sedro-Woolley, Wash.

Washington legislators last week were asked to invest in revolutionary technology that could distill cow manure into dry fertilizer and clean water, making polluted runoff from dairies a problem of the past.

To quote two legislators who heard the presentation, “Wow.” This could well be the innovation that takes care of huge physical and regulatory problems for the dairy industry.

Peter Janicki, CEO of Janicki Bioenergy in Sedro-Woolley, Wash., has worked with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to convert sewage into drinking water in developing countries. That technology works.

The prototype of the Janicki Omni Processor was put in operation in Dakar, Senegal, in 2015. It is designed to process 4,000 tons of fecal waste a year. There’s a YouTube video that shows Bill Gates drinking water from the machine extracted minutes earlier from sewage sludge.

Now, there are differences between a human waste stream and what’s produced by the business end of a dairy cow. But Janicki says the basic technology can be adapted to the purpose.

“It makes the dairy farm a zero-discharge dairy,” he said. “You take the water coming out of the back end of the cow and feed it back into the front end of the cow. So there is nothing that ever leaves the barn.”

Janicki estimated that with $2 million he could build and install equipment to showcase purifying the manure from a 1,000-cow dairy. He predicted the cost would quickly drop to as low as $500,000 as the technology is developed.

It sounds like a game changer to us. Whether Washington taxpayers will or should provide the development funding is open to debate. But if they don’t, someone will, eventually. Janicki’s machine is a huge opportunity that someone will exploit.

Our larger concern is that regulators give the technology a fair examination.

This technology is good news for the commercial dairy industry, and bad news for special interests that have been trying to shut down large-scale animal agriculture on the grounds that it’s bad for the environment. Taking waste management issues off the table makes that a harder case to argue.

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