DATCP: Wisconsin company successfully tests technology to convert cheese waste to renewable energy

Process promises to boost cheese profits, preserve the environment and reduce dependence on foreign oil

Contact: Mike Bandli 608-224-5136 or Robin Engel 608-224-5002

STRATFORD – With help from a state agricultural grant, a Wisconsin company has successfully tested technology that converts cheese waste into renewable energy.

“This starts with the cow and ends with the cow,” said Joe Van Groll, owner of DuBay Ingredients, LLC, the company conducting the research.

In July 2004, Van Groll received a $29,000 grant from the Agricultural Development and Diversification Grant program to research and develop a process for the conversion of cheese whey permeate, a waste product, into ethanol, a renewable fuel.

“Wisconsin is leading the way in energy independence,” Governor Doyle said. “Our state has overhauled our energy policy to make a major new commitment to renewable fuels…our entrepreneurs are continually developing innovative ways to produce energy…and our businesses are investing in new technologies. And as a result, we are growing our economy, reducing our dependence on foreign fossil fuels, and protecting our environment.”

The process also creates a high-nutrition cattle feed by extracting two by-products: probiotic feed supplement – a source of healthy nutrition for cattle – and salt.

“This technology is an excellent example of the no-waste, bio-based economy. It promises to boost cheese profits, preserve the environment and reduce dependence on foreign oil,” said Rod Nilsestuen, Secretary of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection.

Governor Jim Doyle has said he wants Wisconsin to be a leader in the emerging bio-economy, including renewable fuels, energy and bio-based products. Today, Governor Doyle announced that the state will continue its efforts to encourage the use of renewable energy through the POWER Initiative – Promoting Our Wisconsin Energy Resources. The initiative will include a number of new programs to help Wisconsin businesses, local governments, and even homeowners take advantage of renewable energy technologies.

The first part of this initiative announced today will include $225,000 in grants that will help facilitate the use of renewable energy sources such as wind, hydro, and biomass.

The cheese waste to ethanol technology could save cheese makers millions of dollars annually in disposal costs. The cost of disposing of cheese waste cuts deeply into cheese profits.

“We are confident the system will give some cheese plants the ability to convert whey permeate into ethanol and valuable by-products,” said Van Groll. “We have already made significant progress in developing business partnerships to take this technology to the market place.”

Ken Heiman of Nasonville Dairy, Inc. of Marshfield estimates it costs about 22 cents for every 100 pounds of milk to dispose of waste from cheese making.

“This is naturally produced sugar – we already have this product. Now we can make it into renewable energy and eliminate the waste stream,” he said.

Dairy generates more than $20 billion in economic activity for the state. Many of Wisconsin’s smaller to medium-sized cheese manufacturers underpin the economy in rural communities.

For more information about this project or the ADD grant program, call Mike Bandli, ADD grant coordinator, at 608-224-5136.