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Dairy Environmental Systems
Water  •  Air  •   Energy •  Economics

formerly Manure Management Program

AD Workforce Development Project

The Anaerobic Digester Workforce Development Project is a NYSERDA funded project aimed at developing and delivering high-quality educational programs targeted to a range of audiences within the dairy farm-based anaerobic digestion sector of the clean energy field.

Five technical short-courses have been developed to provide educational training to persons who are involved in the planning and implementation of dairy farm-based anaerobic digestion systems and to those currently or who will soon be managing existing operating systems.

These short-courses are:

Curriculum materials are available, and can be obtained by contacting Jenny Pronto In addition, services are available to teach and deliver select curriculum programs described here. Please see the sample curriculum below for an example of training program materials.


Farmbased AD

Introduction to Farm-based Anaerobic Digestion 
Course description
This course prepares the learner to understand and explain basic aspects of manure-based anaerobic digestion (AD). It covers benefits and challenges of AD, biogas as a source of renewable energy, fundamental AD systems and components, and commonly used terms and process explanations.   This course can also include a press coverage event to showcase new or unique aspects of on-farm anaerobic digestion.  

This course is targeted at those seeking a basic understanding of farm-based anaerobic digestion including: farm advisors, media, the general public, extension educators, legislators, and town and county officials. The second component of the workshop (press coverage events) is targeted toward media representatives.  

This is a half-day course. The first portion of this workshop consists of a Powerpoint® presentation, and is intended to provide a basic overview of on-farm AD in order to enable the participant:
- to better interact with interested producers
- to be better positioned to support or develop legislation that directly supports on-farm AD, and/or
- to provide current and accurate information to the public and to the media.  

The second portion is a farm tour, intended to showcase new or unique aspects of on-farm anaerobic digestion facilities. This exposure is to advertise AD in general and to update the general public on current trends in on-farm digestion.  

A course reference book is provided to course participants, along with a short-facts handout that will be provided to media representatives.  

Technical Feasibility of Farm-based Anaerobic Digestion

Course description
This course will provide participants with the tools they need to:
 (1) understand the basic anaerobic digester (AD) system components and the basic environmental benefits that on-farm anaerobic digestion provides,
(2) evaluate the technical feasibility of a dairy farm AD system,
(3) be knowledgeable about sensitivity analysis on key assumptions, and
(4) explore funding options.  

This course is geared toward dairy producers, agriculture consultants, environmental management planners, local authorities, utilities, public officials, regulators, policy makers, insurance companies, and the financial sector.  

This is a two-day course. A course reference book is provided to course participants, along with a short-facts handout that will be provided to media representatives.


Financial and Economic Evaluation and Management of Biogas Systems

Course description

This course provides participants with the knowledge and tools necessary to evaluate the financial feasibility and economic profitability of an anaerobic digestion (AD) system.
Course participants will:
(1) learn to identify the key cost and revenue components of the system,
(2) be provided with an overview of the financial and economic principles required make a financial and economic evaluation of the system,
(3) learn how to use a spreadsheet decision tool to make an economic and financial evaluation of a digester system, and
 (4) gain experience in interpreting the output of the decision tool on a case study.  


This course is geared toward dairy producers, agriculture consultants, environmental management planners, local authorities, utilities, public officials, regulators, policy makers, insurance companies, and members of the financial sector that wish to gain a better understanding of the economics of anaerobic digestion systems on dairy farms.  


This is a one-day short course. The course is divided into four sections. The first two sections cover key economic principles and concepts necessary for understanding the economics of AD systems. The third section introduces participants to a spreadsheet tool that facilitates the analysis of an AD project. The fourth section involves participants working through a case study using the spreadsheet tool and instructor led debriefing of the case study.  

Practical Considerations and Implementation of Anaerobic Digester Systems

Course description
This course prepares learners to implement and run an AD system from the planning and design phase to operation and maintenance. It focuses onthe design of AD systems, how to successfully interact with a designer so that the farm’s needs are met, and basic operation and maintenance.

Course participants will learn to:

•Plan and implement a farm-based AD system

•Consider design options to best suit farm needs

•Perform basic operation and maintenance tasks

This course is aimed at dairy producers who have made the decision to pursue anaerobic digestion on their farms, engineering companies, dairy advisors, university personnel in animal agriculture, extension staff, professionals seeking continuing education units, agricultural professionals, environmental management planners, manufacturers and suppliers of subsystem parts, contractors and service providers.

This is a two day short course and involves both classroom and in the field instruction time, so is held on-site at an operating dairy manure-based AD. A course reference book is provided.

A course reference book is provided to course participants.


 Implementation of on-farm laboratories for the diagnostic and performance evaluation of anaerobic digesters

Although anaerobic digestion is a rather mature technology, system failures are still frequent. A study conducted in New York State revealed that AD some systems were generating less than 60% of their electric energy potential due to poor anaerobic digester performance and system failure. Since most of these problems occur as a result of inadequate operational management and lack of process control, the Dairy Environmental Systems Program at Cornell University implemented a program to educate and support a workforce of anaerobic digester operators and technicians across New York State. As a part of the project, analytical laboratories were installed on selected farm-based anaerobic digester systems with the purpose of diagnosing digester problems and evaluating their performance over the long run.

Preliminary results of the program implementation revealed that periodic monitoring is essential to detect system upsets more efficiently, and to identify and correct the source of the problem before system failure occurs. The project demonstrated that with adequate training, existing farm personnel are capable to monitor their systems autonomously and with efficacy. Based on our results, it is expected that more AD systems in NYS and throughout the US will implement operator training programs and monitor their process periodically. This would positively impact the waste treatment and bioenergy production performance of AD systems in the country.