2014-15 Rapid Ag: Renewable Energy Tech. to ‘Green’ Energy in Dairy and Swine Production Systems

November 28, 2014

Principal Leader

Bradley J. Heins


West Central Research and Outreach Center - Morris

Funding Awarded

2014 Fiscal Year: $102,667

2015 Fiscal Year: $64,394

The Problem

The dairy and swine industries consume an immense amount of fossil fuel in the production of food. The agricultural industry’s dependence for fossil fuel carries significant economic and environmental risks for Minnesota and the United States.


The WCROC has nationally unique facilities and programs that compare conventional and organic crop and livestock production systems. The dairy program has the only side-by-side comparison of organic and conventional systems in the nation and the swine program is one of a handful to co-locate conventional and alternative production systems.

In addition to agricultural production systems, the WCROC has a robust renewable energy program with community and farm-scale production systems. The “greening” of energy consumed in agricultural industries can lead to financial stability for producers, cleaner water and air, less climate volatility, economic development for rural communities, and more affordable food domestically and in developing countries. Incremental progress in greening agriculture’s energy and decreasing its addiction to fossil fuel is critical in the near term.

The University of Minnesota can make a significant impact by leading this change through development of production systems that consume low amounts of fossil fuels. Many of the technologies necessary to green agriculture currently exist in both pre-commercial and commercial stages. However, the technologies have not been integrated into systems and are not field proven. Individual agricultural producers are reluctant to incorporate renewable energy and energy efficient systems without reasonable confidence in performance, longevity, and financial feasibility. The proposed project will significantly advance farm energy practices and produce well-trained agricultural producers, energy professionals, students, and other stakeholders. For the proposed project, we are leveraging other grants received and are requesting funds to add to and more fully research energy technologies for dairy and swine production systems.


  1. Reduce fossil-fuel consumption in dairy and swine production systems through renewable energy generation, energy conservation, and energy optimization.
  2. Conduct baseline energy audits and then develop and evaluate energy-optimized systems in conventional grazing dairy and organic grazing dairy and conventional confinement swine and alternative swine production systems.
  3. Perform life cycle assessments in the conventional and alternative dairy and swine production systems.
Bradley Heins.

Bradley Heins gives information during a field tour of organic dairy production at the University of Minnesota's West Central Research and Outreach Center in Morris.