August 22, 2011

Turning Waste Into Wealth

Turning Waste Into Wealth

By: Christine McClintic, Power Source, A Publication of John Deere Power Systems

A remote-controlled agitator churns the nutrients in the lagoon.

Puck Enterprises helps livestock operations efficiently move liquid manure to area farm fields.

Tough times will often spark your most innovative thinking.

Consider Iowa farmer Ben Puck. To earn extra money to keep his family farm afloat during the Farm Crisis of the 1980s, Ben and his brother bought two vacuum trucks and began hauling liquid manure for area farmers. Certainly, there’s nothing new about fertilizing cropland with manure, but Ben was always searching for a better, more efficient way to do it.

Applying manure waste for decades

Three decades later, Ben is still applying manure, but a lot more of it and much more efficiently these days thanks to some innovative equipment and the help of nearly 20 employees at Puck Custom Enterprises, Inc. of Manning, Iowa.

Ben speaks of liquid manure in a much more appreciative way than most folks do. “There are billions of gallons of liquid manure, and if you know how to use it right, it’s a gift,” says Ben. “We are replacing nutrients at a better rate to meet the nutrient needs of the crops, and we’re perfecting the art of its use and application. We use what we build, and we learn from what we use to make improvements,” says Ben Puck. “It’s just smart business."

Ben’s innovations start on the lagoon. Ben developed three models of floating agitators. A PowerTech 4.5L engine drives the smallest agitator, while the PowerTech 6.8L engines drive two larger models. In all cases, the engines power three high-pressure guns that force liquid pressure downward at rates of 4,000 gpm. While the guns propel the remote-controlled agitators around the lagoon, they simultaneously churn the wastewater so that nutrients evenly distribute. This results in a more predictable and consistent fertilizer solution.

Next, it’s time to efficiently move liquid manure from the lagoon onto the cropland. To do this, Ben developed a system of trailer-mounted pumping units, called pump carts, that move the liquid long distances through drag hoses and onto area fields. “We’re talking from 1.5 miles to 6.5 miles of hose,” explains Ben. “To do this we may use two to three pumping units, maybe five, to keep efficiencies high.”

When pumping liquid manure, efficiency means pumping large volumes at a lower cost. Ben says properly pairing a John Deere engine with a Cornell pump make a great match, and the efficiencies only increase with horsepower. “Larger engines and pumps allow us to pump more per minute, while at the same time, we are improving fuel economy. At one time, we were pumping a million gallons of fuel using a 1,000 gal. of manure. Now we are pumping the same volume with only 450 gal.”

John Deere engines mounted to Cornell pumps, make a great match, according to Ben Puck of Puck Enterprises.

Flow rates increase substantially, too. The 375 hp PowerTech 9.0L engine drives the most popular pumping unit. It achieves flow rates of up to 2000 gpm, in most situations. “But we can get over 3,000 gpm mark this fall with the PowerTech 13.5L engine,” adds Ben. And that’s a sole benefit of John Deere’s largest-displacement engine. “The 13.5L engine runs at 2200 rpm, whereas other engines on the market run at 1850 to 1900 rpm, which would limit your flow rates.”

Northstar Power Systems provides Puck Custom Enterprises with a power unit, complete with a custom cooling package. “Receiving a complete power unit streamlines our business by shortening our fabrication time. That helps us stay very efficient” at the factory level, he says.

But the ultimate goal, Ben says, is to keep his customers efficient, as farmers try to produce the biggest yields and the lowest cost possible. “We want our customers to be profitable and efficient, and be proud of what they have behind them when they are pulling them down the road. The customer satisfaction with that product has been very high. It’s easy to sell something that everyone believes in.”

A John Deere-powered pump unit will deliver liquid manure to area cropland.

Turn waste into wealth with Puck