Even with the advances in modern poultry production methodology, up to five percent of all broiler flocks perish prior to reaching processing age. This represents a significant amount of material that must be managed. Until now much of this waste material has been buried in landfill or on farm sites, with potential for detrimental leaching into the local environment. This once cheap and unsophisticated method of disposal is becoming increasingly costly and problematic, with EPA and Local Councils increasingly resistant to such practices.
With the right treatment however, these waste streams could instead have their value recovered, saving this significant loss of raw materials in the poultry production process. A pilot project being undertaken by Active Research Pty Ltd (AR) and the Poultry CRC proposes an operational trial of the disposal of poultry waste by Anaerobic Digestion (AD). Waste includes poultry carcasses with feathers intact (mortality birds), unseparated eggs and yolks (hatchery waste) and poultry processing sludge.
Utilising AR’s existing mobile pilot digester, the effectiveness of the digestion process will be assessed for hatchery waste, daily mortalities, processing sludge and a mix of these in various proportions. Pre-treatment, digestion and post-digestion processes will be tested and refined in order to best transform these streams of poultry waste.
The products of the digestion process will be high-quality soil nutrient and biogas, which can be used to generate heat and/or electricity. AR’s semi-commercial scale system used in this field trial is sufficiently realistic that it can then be confidently scaled up to a commercial farming and processing size. The outcome of this project will be the development of a best practice template not only for the broiler industry but the poultry industry as a whole, with knock-on benefits to other agricultural and environmental interests.