Innovation Drives Success
The Fogler family, owners of Stonyvale Farm in Exeter, Maine, is focusing on growing their business through sustainable practices.
The use of a $5.2 million anaerobic digestion system uses manure and additional off-farm material to generate enough electricity to power up to 800 households and heat 300 New England homes. The digester is a first for Maine, according to operations manager Travis Fogler. The 1,000-cow dairy first converted raw manure and food waste into methane gas in December 2011.
Less than a year after installation, Stonyvale Farm had cut their bedding cost by half, to $40,000. Fertilizer costs have also decreased due to the use of the digester. The Foglers are able to spread fertilizer sooner than normal — without the odor that may prevent farmers from applying it.
"The digester eliminates the smells that you typically get," Fogler says.
The Foglers spent three years researching how to improve the farm’s nutrient management practices, and that focused research led to other projects. Commercial real estate developer and cousin of the Fogler family, Adam Wintle, helped the family with the original project’s financing, construction and engineering. Now, Wintle is the managing director of Biogas Energy Partners, a renewable energy development firm that opened in July 2011. Wintle helps other producers who are interested in building digestion systems on their operations.
The digester has not only provided cost benefits for the farm, but family benefits as well. By selling electricity produced to Bangor Hydro-Electric Co., it has allowed Wintle’s brother, John Wintle, to return to the farm to work as project facility manager for Exeter Agri-Energy, the farm’s subsidiary.
The family is also working on lobbying for new food waste management practices in Maine.
"Rght now, we’re just planting the seed with state legislators, but it’s our goal to help them see that this is a responsible way to farm," Adam Wintle says. The digester has shined a spotlight on the farm, but the family-run operation hasn’t significantly changed. Fogler says the family expects to grow their energy business and hopes to purchase additional land to expand their herd. "Looking ahead, nothing is set in concrete yet, but we will continue to look for new opportunities that might fit our system," Fogler says.