January Newsletter

I love winter. I love the long dark nights in which to rest and dream. I love the sound of silence that is a walk in the woods as snowflakes saturate the space between sky and ground, blanketing Mother Earth in her slumber. I love the arrival of seed catalogs - fodder for the dreams which elicit the anticipation of spring and new growth.

NBI’s founders and collaborators have been actively dreaming up some exciting projects for this new calendar year, the seeds of which are starting to wake and germinate.

Even as we continue to enjoy the reprieve of winter, we are looking forward to tending the new life on it’s way; the growth of a community rooted in the desire for a regenerative, reciprocal and just relationship with how we produce energy and grow food.

Thank you for being part of our dream.

Happy New Year!

Lisa Berkovits,

Community Engagement Liaison

Northeast Biogas Initiative

UMASS & Biogas

Update from Dr. Hunter, Co-Founder, Senior Lecturer UMass Amherst in Biomedical Engineering & iCons programs.

USDA Sun Grant awarded to explore the creation of a UMass Biogas Research Hub

We are excited to have just been awarded a $30k federal seed grant from the USDA Sun Grant Program, to establish a network of biogas researchers and stakeholders in the Northeast bioregion!

The mission of the Sun Grant Program is to focus the abilities of the nation’s colleges and universities in partnership with the private sector and government agencies to enhance national energy security and independence through the development, distribution, and implementation of bio-based energy and product technologies, to promote bio-based diversification and environmental sustainability of the region’s agriculture, and to promote opportunities for bio-based economic diversification in rural communities. Biogas fits right in!

The USDA grant reviewers expressed “broad enthusiasm for the [biogas] network that you propose to develop”. The A-Team network we are putting together for this work is led by Dr. Martin Hunter (PI) and Dr. Dwayne Breger (co-PI) from UMass and various academic, industry and community biogas consultants, including: Elyssa Serrilli and Lisa Berkovits from NBI, Kathy Puffer from the Biogas Education Hub, Matt Steiman from the Dickinson College Farm and Zak Dowell, a PhD student from Virginia Tech with experience in biodigester winterization and household biodigesters.

The work aims to clarify the potential impact of small- and medium-scale biogas technologies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and move our bioregion closer to a regenerative carbon-neutral economy. The US and the EU lead the world in total biogas production but those efforts almost exclusively involve large-scale biogas plants, e.g., for urban wastewater treatment or for managing large livestock farms with several hundred animals, or more. There are no biogas technologies currently tailored to small and mid sized farms, and those available for urban and rural households are not suited to the colder climate of our bioregion. This grant will allow us to begin feasibility studies on these potential markets and the technologies needed to serve them in a regionally- and culturally-efficient way.

We are looking forward to building and strengthening our biogas research community and to opening doors for biogas technologies to reach the many who will benefit from them.

Nuestras Raices to get ‘Baby Dragon’ this Spring through NBI & UMass Institute for Diversity Sciences.

Last year, in collaboration with Dr. Hunter and Erica Light - a teacher in the UMass iCons program - NBI secured a $15k educational grant from the UMass Institute for Diversity Sciences (IDS). The goal of the grant was to encourage greater participation and retention in STEM careers by students from underrepresented groups, by offering community-based biogas research projects with a social justice component. To conduct this work, NBI has recently partnered with Nuestras Raices, an organization in Holyoke MA, that works to promote urban agriculture - creating healthy environments, community connections and educational programs for residents. Nuestras Raices engages in advocacy work to bring about sustainable and just food systems from the local to the national level.

The IDS grant will allow Nuestras Raices to receive a HomeBiogas biodigester, allowing them to heat a greenhouse for seed starting with the methane produced while also enriching their soil with the liquid digestate. Nuestras Raices staff are currently enrolled in The Succeed with Home-Scale Biogas course and site consultations are under way to prepare Nuestras Raices staff for the greatest success with this simple, carbon-neutral technology.

UMass students will not only help to install the ‘baby dragon’, they will also conduct important research related to the science and the socio-economic possibilities from small-scale biodigesters.

NBI is excited to be working with an organization whose mission and values align so well with our own visions for social and environmental justice, as well as cultivating healthy communities. We are also looking forward to the research & development opportunities UMass students will be provided with through this partnership. The ability for Nuestras Raices & Holyoke residents to receive and learn to operate a biodigester, while collaborating with UMass students and faculty conducting research to further the field of small-scale biogas is a win-win situation for students, communities and Mother Earth.

Intern Update

NBI is happy to have our dedicated UMass interns, Leisha and Keira, continue to work with us this Winter & Spring.

Leisha’s work on our evolving business plan and flow charts is helping NBI move forward with greater clarity and organization. Keira is creating social media posts and case study posters that are making our community outreach materials pop - as can be seen below in the case study she designed about a local resident with a 55 gallon drum digesters.

In late November of 2023, Dr Hunter gave a presentation to around 90 members of the UMass BioSci club.

It went really well!!! There were about 80-90 students present in the audience. They all seemed to be really interested and engaged in the concept of Biogas. The club e-board members were also really excited and happy that we reached out to them. They are eager to collaborate and work with us again.

The “Build a Biodigester” workshop that we are planning to hold at UMass this spring was discussed and we were heartened to see the interest and energy it generated in club members.

Outreach and planning for the workshop has begun and will continue in February after the winter break.

Advisory Council & Working Groups

Next meeting: Thursday, 18 January, 2024 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm est.

As we prepare for our next Advisory Council meeting we are looking forward to dedicating more of the meeting time to our working groups centered on: Community Engagement & Needs, Technical Development and Business Models.

A number of our advisory council members have expressed they are eager to plan and implement ways to grow the reach of small-scale biogas in our region. We will continue to hone in to identify the most pressing needs and/or areas of growth for NBI to pursue at this moment, moving into strategizing our next steps for each group to take - including plans for the research to be conducted under our recently-awarded USDA Northeast Sun Grant Program.

Get Involved

Want to help cultivate a just, resilient, carbon-neutral, regenerative economy and food system?

Join Our Advisory Council & Working Groups!

We are still welcoming new voices to join our Advisory Board and help with a working group. If you are interested please reach out to us at northeastbiogasinitiative@gmail.com and put ‘Advisory Council’ in the subject line.

Our next Advisory Council meeting will be on Thursday, 18 January, 2024, 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm est.