A glimpse at the farms of the future 1


I am fortunate to have half of my family living in the countryside with family members working as farmers. I believe this enabled me to discover the marvels of Nature at a young age.

While working one sunny afternoon in April  I was reflecting with one of my uncles that the cow manure collected daily at their farm would be an excellent energy source in a world where oil prices would have skyrocketed.

It seems the idea is not that far-fetched as the New York Times published an article going in that direction. Indeed why buy foreign natural gas when we have ample reserves just next door ?

Indeed, as the NY Times notes  ‘The average cow makes enough waste per day to power a 100-watt light bulb” (or five energy efficient 20 W bulbs as efficiency matters !)

Now let us put the idea a lot further. With the tremendous meat consumption in affluent countries what if all manure was collected and transformed into biogas ?

There were indeed no less than 18.9 millions bovines in France in 2006 according to the data provided by the INRA (the French National Institute for Agricultural Research).

If the manure of 10 millions of these bovines was collected and used, we would collect enough energy to power 50 million 20 W bulbs 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, almost one for each French person !

This isn’t that much but I guess we still could slash coal consumption in staggering figures if expanded throughout Europe and the world…

With one stone we would hit two birds : indeed natural gas would replace part of the coal – which is a good thing as this energy source emits half the amount of greenhouse gases – and the agricultural sector would decrease dramatically its emissions as its amounts of greenhouse gases emitting waste would be slashed.

Such a thing is already occurring in the United States where companies like Google, Microsoft and HP could soon be powering their data centers with the cow manure collected and transformed into biogas locally.

For more on this topic, please check out HP’s cow-powered data center page.


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