No market yet for phosphorous

ST. ALBANS – It might be possible to concentrate and market phosphorous that might otherwise run into Lake Champlain.

This is according to Agrilab Technologies’ Brian Jerose, who presented a summary of his company’s award-winning proposal to explore phosphorous markets to a crowd of farmers, researchers and state officials during the Friends of Northern Lake Champlain (FNLC)’s annual Winter Farm Meeting on Tuesday.

Jerose’s presentation was bookended with good news and bad.

The bad news – much of it old news – was that the northeast, and especially the Missisquoi River Basin, was a nucleus for phosphorous loading in Lake Champlain.

The good news, however, is that the Enosburg Falls-based Agrilab was exploring concentrating some of that phosphorous and possibly marketing it.

In Agrilab’s proposal for Gov. Phil Scott’s Phosphorous Innovation Challenge, the company proposed using existing technology to separate phosphorous and develop a hypothetical marketing plan to distribute that phosphorous to places where it might be more useful.

“A lot of these things are now technically feasible,” Jerose said, summarizing the pitch that ultimately won one of the challenge’s six awards. “But what’s economically feasible?”

Jerose briefly summarized the barriers his company discovered while exploring the phosphorous market, much of which appeared to stem from the fact that a sustainable phosphorous market largely doesn’t exist yet.

According to Jerose:

  • – While the technology for concentrating phosphorous for redistribution exists, it’s adoption has been limited and is currently expensive, “with few incentives for dairy farmers to install systems.”
  • – Awareness of a market for phosphorous was limited and facilitating that market would require entirely new supply chains with high trucking costs.
  • – Outlets for selling concentrated phosphorous, whether they be bulk commodity outlets or other retail channels, still need development.

“Those are the type of things we’re trying to quantify,” Jerose said.

The second stage for this project would explore ways to bridge some of those barriers, with Jerose referencing a specific composting and drying operation at Middlebury’s Foster Brothers Farm that could provide a cost-effective answer for marketing phosphorous.


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