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Fremont digester turning food scraps into electricity, fertilizer and compost

Lindsey Smith
Michigan Radio

A small farming community in West Michigan is celebrating the opening of plant that will turn organic waste into electricity.

Colonies of specialized bacteria will do the bulk of the work.

“The little fellows are just hungry as heck,” said Anand Gangadharan, president of Novi Energy. The company designed and will help manage the new Fremont Community Digester. They held a ribbon cutting ceremony to mark the digester’s opening Tuesday.

“They love sweet stuff; ice cream and cheese. They like fruits and vegetables, meats, alcohols; hey I mean they have their vises too and we intend on giving them a full life,” Gangadharan laughed.

The Freemont Community Digester will turn more than 100,000 tons of food waste into about three megawatts of power a year. The bacteria will produce methane gas that will power two engine-generators, providing baseload power for Consumers Energy.

The digester will produce compost and liquid fertilizer too.

The digester will be fed mainly by-products of making baby food from the nearby Gerber plant; stuff like apple cores and the tops of carrots and celery. But the digester is made to be able to handle a vast array of feed stocks.

North Central Cooperative Senior Manager Rob Zeldenrust called the digester West Michigan’s “field of dreams”.

“On my cell phone as we speak, I have several companies in West Michigan, food processors, that are asking me to reach out to them and find out is there a way that we could help them with their food processing waste. So if you build it they will come,” Zeldenrust said.

Credit Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio
Michigan Radio
Officials from the companies invested in the plant joined politicians in a ribbon cutting ceremony Tuesday morning.

The $22 million project was supported in part by a loan guarantee from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“This is the vision of where we can go as it relates to agriculture and manufacturing and new energy opportunities,” U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow said during the opening ceremony. “And I think it’s just the beginning,” Stabenow said.  

Lindsey Smith helps lead the station's Amplify Team. She previously served as Michigan Radio’s Morning News Editor, Investigative Reporter and West Michigan Reporter.
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