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Illinois farmer to market hog odor reducer using car wash technology
Illinois Correspondent

EUREKA, Ill. — Any rural resident - and even some city folk - who reside downwind from a hog farm knows the uncomfortable truth: swine operations can be malodorous. In fact, they can downright stink.

William “Fred” Frederick, who operates a small hog farm near Eureka, Ill. in Woodford County appreciates his neighbors’ concerns.

Along with Dan Davis of East Peoria’s Enercon Engineering, Inc., Frederick has developed machines employing the technology he utilizes in his other business - manufacturing car wash machinery at SoBrite Technologies, Inc. - which the pair, along with an Illinois State University professor, claim can all but eliminate the odor produced from hog manure slurry that is applied to farm fields before planting.

After being treated with Frederick’s Smart Earth Odor Control and Filter units, the slurry also becomes a valuable, nitrogen-rich substance beneficial to farm fields.

“Ninety-nine percent of neighbors’ complaints are from odor,” Frederick said, commenting on rural residents’ concerns about living in the proximity of swine production operations. “If you can eliminate odor, your neighbor might let you keep farming.”

Davis, a strategic accounts manager for Enercon, a power generation and engineering company, said the company is excited to link arms with Frederick in producing the machines, which should be on the market sometime in 2007.

“We genuinely feel we can help agriculture,” Davis said. “Everything about hog manure right now is negative. If we can take that negative and turn it into two or three positives, that’s a great thing. You will have a nitrogen-rich ratio that fertilizes and irrigates and is very conducive to corn growing. You print it…I can prove it.”

“One of the most useful aspects is that it brings the nitrogen/phosphorous ratio back into desired ranges for optimum corn production,” Frederick echoed.

When Frederick first thought of applying SoBrite’s technology to hog odor reduction, he, along with other pig farmers all over the country, was feeling the heat from rural homeowners and others who had jumped on the anti-hog farm bandwagon. Public sentiment against hog production farms grew as the Environmental Protection Agency issued new, stricter guidelines for swine operations and the press began calling more attention to the problem.

“If the wind is blowing the wrong direction, everybody screams bloody murder. We like to be good citizens,” Frederick said. “Once we had solved the car wash odor problem, our belief was that if we put the right amount of the technology towards the hog waste problem, we would have something. The basic concepts were what we had been using in the car wash industry.”

After Frederick developed his first “Poopinator,” as the odor reduction unit has been nicknamed, he took it to his farm to test in a six foot-deep, 40-by-60-foot pit. After trying different configurations and liquid concentrations, Frederick had his first “eureka” moment, as most great inventors do, by accident.

“We had a problem the fourth or fifth day when one of the hoses pulled out of the hog pit. Fortunately, we were just about done and we only dumped about four or five hundred gallons of hog manure,” Frederick recalled. “That’s when we decided we really had something, because everyone noticed there were no flies (in the spill area). Thirty steps over, flies were all around the building. And when we spread the manure, there was no odor. We were excited, and we took it to Illinois State University (ISU) and (agriculture professor) Paul Walker. At the first meeting, he said ‘I want you to know, Fred, I know your equipment will not work.’ I said, ‘good, now we have a good understanding as to where we’re starting.’”

“We said, ‘great, we’re going to pay you to prove us wrong,’” Davis added.

In 2004, testing commenced at ISU’s working farm near Lexington, Ill. Walker, who had tested other hog odor reduction prototypes in the past, and his crew first tried Frederick and Davis’ invention in a 40-by-80-foot confinement building and then a 100-foot open-front building.

“It was a two-part test. We started off and controlled the odor on hog waste to (Walker’s) satisfaction. Then we worked on separating the solids from the liquids and controlling the nitrogen/phosphorus levels,” Frederick explained, adding that the bulk of the nitrogen produced by hog waste remains with the liquids in nitrate from, while the phosphorous remains with the solids.

“So now we’re in a position where we can offer pivot irrigation of the liquid because you don’t have the phosphorous anymore,” Davis added. “How people choose to deal with the solids we are leaving up to them. People use solids in different ways, such as making compost out of it. Our objective was to solve the odor problem.”

Walker issued his report on the tested products, which are being marketed under the trademarked name “Smart Earth Technologies,” early in 2005.

“The results of this pilot trial suggests under production scale conditions the Smart Earth Technology system evaluated can reduce odor and improve (nitrogen/phosphorous) ratio of swine slurry,” Walker found. “Additional study is warranted because the treatment system did produce significant beneficial changes in the characteristics of liquid swine manure.”

Walker’s findings also included a disclaimer, however, when he wrote that the Smart Earth odor reduction unit could be most effective when combined with another system.

Since then, Frederick, Davis, and the crew at Enercon have been busy fine-tuning their machine and have conducted further tests in Iowa in larger buildings. While some packaging and sizing remains to be done, the pair said their product is ready for its debut on the agricultural market.

“We’ve engaged a hydraulics engineer,” Davis said. “We know beyond the shadow of a doubt the product works on buildings up to 150 feet in length, but what we have to do is find out how to apply the product in a consistent manner that gets consistent results in much larger hog houses. Due diligence on the hydraulics is the last piece of the puzzle for the largest hog operations.”

Davis said he and Frederick want to be “a part of the solution” in bringing harmony to hog producers and their rural neighbors. Though other companies have introduced hog odor reduction units in recent years, the pair claims to have the only patent on a product utilizing their method.

Frederick, it turns out, has even bigger goals than simply restoring rural neighborly relations when it comes to his Smart Earth Odor Control and Filter units.

“By eliminating the odor, we think we can bring livestock back to Illinois,” Frederick said.

For more information, Call Smart Earth Technologies at 309-467-2335.