Identifying income-producing byproducts to help offset the cost of alternative manure-handling technologies is part of a large research project underway at North Carolina State University. Cost-benefit analysis of 18 manure-handling technologies so far have identified more than 30 potentially salable byproducts.

Agricultural economists on the research team are quick to say that most of the byproducts’ values, market venues and selling prices are yet to be determined. Their goal is to attach a realistic price to each byproduct at the farm – before it has been further processed to add value for resale.

Kelly Zering, lead economist, says, “We will try to establish a value for each byproduct at the first point where there is a viable market.”

Smithfield Foods and Premium Standard Farms is funding the search for manure technologies to replace lagoons and spray fields as part of their agreements with the state attorney general. The goal is to find technologies that “substantially eliminate” odors, ammonia emissions, release of pathogens, as well as soil and groundwater contamination by nutrients and heavy metals.

At present, nine of the candidate technologies are in various stages of construction, operation and performance verification. The other nine are in earlier phases of a 15-step process – design, permitting and negotiations of several types of agreements.