Maryland’s poultry industry produces more than 300 million chickens a year which generate roughly 650 million pounds (0.3 million tons) of poultry litter annually. Most of the chicken waste is applied as fertilizer onto farm fields, but there is more of it than the fields can absorb. Excess nitrogen and phosphorous from the manure seep into the ground water, causing eutrophication in the Chesapeake Bay, and threatening ecological and human health.
Given the extent of the environmental damage caused by the poultry industry’s runoff, significant public and private resources in Maryland have been directed toward identifying technologies that convert poultry litter into energy. As we noted in our 2015 Abell Report on agricultural pollution, most combustion-based waste-to-energy technologies result in elevated air emissions, thereby replacing one environmental problem (waste disposal) with another (harmful air emissions). Similarly, many waste-to-energy conversion technologies have been developed for large-scale, capital-intensive commercial application. The CycloBurn system, by contrast, is being developed by MSU as a low-cost, nearly zero-emission method of reducing poultry waste and generating electricity on-site for use by individual poultry farms. The model has the potential to have broad market potential among small-scale poultry farms in Maryland.
The Abell Foundation is supporting MSU to complete the remaining lab-scale development of the technology, and to work to identify a company to license the CycloBurn technology and take it to market.