Washington State University Tri-Cities receives US$225,000 in private funding over three years toward research on anaerobic digestion of cattle manure, other agricultural wastes for bioenergy production

Graziela Medina Shepnick

Graziela Medina Shepnick

Sep 6, 2010 – Washington State University

RICHLAND, Washington , September 3, 2010 (press release) – A prominent agricultural family is giving $225,000 to support research being conducted in the Bioproducts, Sciences, and Engineering Laboratory at Washington State University Tri-Cities.

Cody Easterday, president of the Pasco-based Easterday Ranches and Easterday Farms, announced the three-year pledge gift of $75,000 per year.

As a BSEL Research Sponsor, this gift funds an Easterday Graduate Research Fellow to focus on the anaerobic digestion of cattle manure and other agricultural wastes, including onions. The goal is to establish bio-gas yields and other value-added byproducts for use and commercialization.  

The Easterday corporation is a diversified Vegetable Row Crop Farming and Cattle Feeding company in Eastern Washington with more than 300 full-time employees. Easterday Farms is known internationally for growing, packing, and shipping onions. Easterday Ranches raises beef and is deeply involved in the Washington Cattle Feeders Association.
 
“Easterday Ranches and Easterday Farms have the perfected combination of manure and produce byproducts for this kind of research,” said Cody Easterday. “Our company, our employees, and our family are proud to be an industry leader in finding ways to turn ag waste into energy.”

BSEL Research Sponsors finance applied research relevant to specific agricultural or commercial needs of the region and nation. By supporting a graduate research student at WSU Tri-Cities, sponsors help to produce a pipeline of future scientists and agricultural personnel trained in the application of biomass and the environmental sciences.

Also on Friday, the BSEL team unveiled a new, $575,000 piece of research equipment — a biomass pretreatment system — that was custom-designed by the WSU team based in BSEL and assembled by Vista Engineering Technologies in Richland.
 
Depending on how the research develops in the laboratory, the Easterday project could someday be tested on a larger scale in this pretreatment system in the BSEL high bay. The equipment uses a steam heat and high pressure to break biomass — such as switchgrass or non-food agriculture waste— into sugars and other components that can be recovered and further developed into a form of biofuel.
 
“This equipment allows us to vary the conditions and evaluate different biomass feedstocks, so we can find the optimal conditions for degrading the material into valuable products,” said Birgitte K. Ahring, director of the WSU Center for Bioproducts and Bioenergy and the Battelle Distinguished Professor. “This advanced pretreatment process is more cost-efficient than traditional methods, making it more viable to use biomass to develop biofuels and bioproducts.”

The BSEL building at WSU Tri-Cities is the core of the Center for Bioproducts and Bioenergy. The $24.8 million, 57,000-square-foot building opened in May 2008 in partnership with the state of Washington, Washington State University, the U.S. Department of Energy, and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. Half of the building, including the high bay, is occupied by PNNL.
 
Funding for the pretreatment system was provided by Washington State’s STAR researcher fund as part of the 2008-2009 recruitment package for Ahring.
 
Vista Engineering Technologies, LLC, is a small business headquartered in Richland, Wash., which provides engineering and technology development services as well as geoenvironmental services to government and industry clients. As a technical problem-solving company, and a registered engineering service corporation in the state of Washington, Vista Engineering Technologies is recognized nationally for its work. Visit http://www.vistaengr.com for more details.
 
WSU Tri-Cities is located along the scenic Columbia River in Richland, Wash. Established in 1989 with upper division and graduate programs, WSU Tri-Cities expanded in 2007 to a full four-year undergraduate campus offering 17 bachelor’s, 14 master’s and seven doctoral degrees. Learn more about the fastest growing and more diverse campus in the WSU system at www.tricity.wsu.edu.

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