Profitable Practices: Producing beef and biogas with Carl Frook

Carl Frook

How does an on-farm biodigester and 2,200 beef cattle merge to make a farm more profitable and sustainable?

On this episode of RealAgriculture’s Profitable Practices, Carl Frook shares how Frook Farms and Mar Creek Renewables have come together to help him manage manure, his cattle, his crops, and boost the bottom line for the family operation, located northeast of Walkerton in Ontario’s Bruce County.

The farm biogas plant was built in 2012. This anaerobic digester is tied into the provincial power grid and generates 750 kilowatts of electricity to the grid every hour — enough to power 700 to 750 homes, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Frook admits that the operation is a bit of a puzzle: the cattle herd is just the right size to generate the required manure to power the plant, along with the addition of some off-farm animal and food processing waste.

In this video, Frook describes how the digester heats up the product to allow for the decomposition of organic material to produce biogas, bedding for cattle and fertilizer for crops. “Biogas has a methane concentration of anywhere from 60 to 65 per cent CH4 and that is our fuel that is put through the gas engines that spins a generator. And that’s how we produce electricity for the Ontario electricity grid.”

In addition to the electricity, the digester also produces animal bedding for the cattle as well as nutrient-rich liquid fertilizer that’s applied to the farm’s 1,200 acres of hay, corn silage and high moisture corn.

Frook credits the biodigester and biogas for allowing his family to uniquely diversify the farm — they now produce electricity and beef. Greater profitability and sustainability comes from using manure solids in combination with straw to create an animal-friendly bedding system and also from reducing the need for commercial fertilizer for feed production. See the video below.

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