As farms look for ways to better utilize manure, companies have risen to the task of finding novel solutions. Adoption of these new technologies can be slow, though, often making the manure innovation space a difficult one to break into.
Enter the Yield Lab Institute. According to Chief Operating Officer Brandon Day, the institute is a nonprofit ag tech think tank that aims to serve as a catalyst for early innovations, helping accelerate their path to market and commercialization. This is done through a variety of initiatives, including innovation challenges.
A new contest
Day said it was with that spirit in mind that they launched the Manure Innovation Challenge last year for manure-based products and services. This was in partnership with Cargill, the Maschhoffs, WeWork Food Labs, Newtrient, Dairy Farmers of America, and their environmental advisory partner, World Wildlife Fund.
A global call for ag tech startups resulted in 60 applicants from around the world. Eight of the companies were selected as finalists.
“The Manure Innovation Challenge has a two prong effort to try to advance these ideas,” said Day. The first prong is intentional mentorship and networking. Each finalist was assigned a business mentor to help outline goals and objectives and grow their ideas. They also had access to the Yield Lab Institute’s global network of ag tech stakeholders.
Secondly, there was a monetary reward. Each startup was competing for non-dilutive capital of $50,000 to help advance their business.
The Manure Innovation Challenge culminated with a virtual meeting where each of the eight finalists pitched their ideas to a live, worldwide audience. A panel of global judges carefully evaluated and ranked the finalists before naming Digested Organics as the winner of the first ever Manure Innovation Challenge.
From waste to water
According to Robert Lavigne, the company’s chief executive officer and co-founder, Digested Organics works to meet the manure challenges farmers face head on. In his company’s pitch, he explained that their system uses filtration to transform manure into clean water, concentrated fertilizers, and renewable energy.
Digested Organics currently has three commercial farm installations and several projects in the works. For more information about the Michigan-based company, visit digestedorganics.com. The other finalists are listed in the box below.
More information about this year’s Manure Innovation Challenge can be found at www.animalagtech.com/manure-challenge.
Meet the other contest finalists
The other finalists in the Manure Innovation Challenge included:
- Biomass Control
- N2 Applied
- SoMax BioEnergy
This article appeared in the August 2020 issue of Journal of Nutrient Management on page 17.
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