Dairy-waste research wins 2010 Outstanding Thesis Award at UW-Green Bay

Graduate student Annette Pelegrin of Pulaski is this year’s winner of the UW-Green Bay Outstanding Thesis Award.

Pelegrin will receive her master’s degree in May in Environmental Science and Policy. Her thesis, “Technical and Economic Feasibility of Solid-liquid Separation for Digested Dairy Manure with Polymer Treatment,” was supervised by Prof. John Katers. Pelegrin will be presented the award at the UW-Green Bay Alumni Association awards program Saturday evening, April 17, at the Weidner Center.

Pelegrin’s project, which aims to make manure management more cost-effective and eco-friendly by better separating liquids from solids, was accomplished with the help of an Agricultural Development and Diversification Grant from Wisconsin’s Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection.

Partners in the grant included two local companies, ENCAP and FEECO International, with additional support from Green Valley Dairy, Krakow, where testing took place.

Pelegrin holds a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from UW-Madison. She is completing final coursework for her UW-Green Bay master’s degree this semester.

Her research seeks to enhance anaerobic digestion systems already in place for managing manure on many large dairy farms. Pelegrin noted that, along with renewable energy in the form of biogas, anaerobic digestion produces nutrient-rich liquid fertilizer; unfortunately, the commercial value is somewhat limited because liquids are relatively more cumbersome and costly to handle.

Pelegrin’s project, then, seeks ways to improve on conventional mechanical separators that leave a significant amount of nutrients suspended in liquid. She evaluated water-treatment polymers for capturing the remaining solids and nutrients in digested dairy manure.  With her own polymer formula and a using a benchtop rotating drum as a separator in the lab, she went on to work with ENCAP and FEECO to develop a full-scale test at Green Valley Dairy.

After separation, the solids were transported to FEECO where they were dried and pelletized into a fertilizer product.


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