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A group of farmers has created a plant that transforms manure into biogas and fertilizer. The experiment has become a study case.
Germany looks up to Alto Adige, Italy for circular economy solutions. The newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore published a reportage on Alta Val d’Isarco, in Alto Adige, where a group of farmers came up with a way to avoid killing surplus cattle producing too much manure that could not be reused and exceeded the EU norms. The farmers established a plant that transforms animal waste into biogas.
The company was founded by 63 cattle farmers with the name Biogas Wipptal Srl and manages a biogas plant in the municipality of Val di Vizze, in the province of Bolzano, Alto Adige. The process taking place in the plant is the anaerobic digestion of manure and cattle sewage, with the aim of producing energy and heat but also a high quality natural fertilizer coming from the residues of the anaerobic digestion process, the so-called “digested”.
The result is a natural and odour-free fertilizer that can be used for orchards and vineyards. The plant, which is a unique case in Europe, is one of the few Italian companies to receive EU funding under the LIFE+ program. And there’s more: Biogas Wipptal raised the interest of Germany, which chose the Alto Adige company as the object for an international research and development project. This makes Biogas Wipptal the only Italian company in this sector to be recognized as an example worth studying and replicating.
Numerous international studies point out the need to reduce the ammonia emissions deriving from manure spreading: this practice affects underground waters and increases atmospheric pollution, in addition to having a bad odour. The system developed in Alto Adige would solve these problems in an efficient and sustainable way.
The Biogas Wipptal plant is powered by animal waste coming from local farms, produces renewable electricity, and generates heat, which is used to dry the residues of biogas production. After the desiccation, the residues turn into a natural and odour-free fertilizer which can be used by local farms.
The plant became operational in June 2016 and has a treatment capacity of 220 tons of animal waste per day, which produces about 1 megawatt.