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Food waste & Composting opportunities

  • 1.  Food waste & Composting opportunities

    Posted 05-23-2020 03:40 PM

    In light of recent news regarding farmers and our agriculture industry that are releasing and destroying crops, are there safe measures being taken to ensure that the disposed material are being recycled properly? 


    There are a few reasons why I am concerned (both as a person who calls this land home and as an engineer):
    1. It is millions of dollars that are lost in revenue and in providing food products for the country and world.
    2. The massive destruction and waste produced in this process could potentially become hazardous waste if it doesn't decompose properly.
    3. Are there any good composting or waste management practices that could be introduced to the agricultural industry? The concern here is relating to keeping their farms & lands fertile to be capable of providing nutritious food after everyone, including industries and businesses, acclimates out of the crisis. 


    Thanks,

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    Oanh Le Aff.M.ASCE
    Suwanee GA
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  • 2.  RE: Food waste & Composting opportunities

    Posted 05-26-2020 11:51 AM
    These are very good and relevant questions and I will offer a few thoughts. Composting or use of organic materials as a nutrient source is very common in agriculture and crop production. I provide a few examples below. It may be useful to break the question about composting practices down into where and when in the food chain it occurs, such as in-field before harvest, post harvest storage, partially or fully processed food stock, livestock and such to identify where new composting practice opportunities exist.

    A couple of examples of where there are well-developed practices already: We regularly see crops (e.g. corn, soybeans, potatoes, sugar beets) damaged by weather, pests or for other reasons not being harvested. These crops are worked back into the soil and their nutrients re-released back for future crops. At the other end of the scale, with several meat processing plants idled due to COVID19 we are seeing a surplus of animals (especially hogs) that are being composted. While rare, large-scale composting of animal carcasses is done in a controlled way, ensuring the right C/N ratio, temperature and time is in place for complete composting, killing of pathogens and avoid smells. In Minnesota, we have a state emergency management team overseeing these composting activities to ensure they are done in a safe and appropriate way. Other states have similar procedures in place.

    Thanks,
    Jeppe Kjaersgaard
    Minnesota Department of Agriculture

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    Jeppe Kjaersgaard
    Research Scientist
    Minnesota Department of Agriculture
    Saint Paul MN
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  • 3.  RE: Food waste & Composting opportunities

    Posted 05-26-2020 01:50 PM
    Hi Mr. Kjaersagaard,

    Thank you for your insight. Your response was reassuring. In a sense, my question may be more related to how COVID19 breaks down on its own and whether those byproducts would be considered toxic for human exposure or consumption. In this case, my imagination is getting the best of me, but what is the likelihood that the virus breaks down (or does not) in certain conditions and produces a by-product that may be toxic as a secondary reaction to the virus' decomposition with other materials? Maybe the question is how does it interact with other bacterias, virus' and or pathogens as it decomposes?

    My guess is that if it does not decompose, it may end up being a virus that will require continuous vaccine treatments similar to the flu.

    Thank you for your response. I enjoy these discussions and for some reason my questions end up being rhetorical in nature, but the subjects are open-ended.


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    Oanh Le Aff.M.ASCE
    Suwanee GA
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