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Award Letter - Biomass for Vermicomposting

Posted by Sarthak Prasad on June 30, 2015

The SSC awarded the Sustainable Student Farm a grant in 2013 to build a transplant greenhouse that also housed a vermicomposting pilot porject with Dining Services. This was meant to test the feasability of collecting pre-consumer food waste from the Dining hall facilities and converting it into worm compost for use on the student farm. In its first year of operation the greenhouse has been heated soley from propane, which is the most common and simplest heating system for these types of greenhouses. The nature of the worms used in this type of composting require an ideal temperature range of 40-80F. In order to attain this, the greenhouse needs to be heated during the winter months.

In 2014 the greenhouse consumed approximately 1600 gallons of propane for heating. At an average price of $2 this equals $3200/year in heating costs. By comparison if the biomass furnace is used and can replace 80% of the heating requirements that would only cost $1664/year in heating costs. The main reaplacement fuel would be #2 Shell Corn @ 15% moisture. This is readily available in the midwest and costs on average about $3.5/bushel. It would take about 366 bushels of corn to replace the BTU’s provided by the propane. The nature of managing the biomass furnace would allow us to replace only 80% of the heating requirements for the greenhouse. Future development of these furnaces could one day replace the requirement completely. However, the propane system will be kept as a back up.