C-CHANGE is leading the exploration of creating a new agricultural value chain based on the production of renewable natural gas and associated co-products through anaerobic digestion of herbaceous feedstocks, combined with manure from livestock.

Iowa State’s C-CHANGE to host conference exploring opportunities in biogas

By Dan Kirkpatrick, Iowa State University Office of the Vice President for Research

Iowa State University’s Consortium for Cultivating Human and Naturally reGenerative Enterprises (C-CHANGE) is hosting its inaugural Conference on Agriculture, Technology and Innovation March 25-27, 2020, in Des Moines, Iowa.

The conference – themed “Why are we missing the boat on biogas?” – is designed to bring together experts from agriculture, energy, government, science and society to share new thinking and new ideas to expand the value chain for Renewable Natural Gas, a component of biogas. RNG is one of the best-incentivized and fastest growing product categories in today’s bioeconomy. A well-designed value chain could foster economic growth in rural America while also alleviating concerns over energy security, greenhouse gas emissions, climate resilience, soil health, water quality and more in the Midwest.

“C-CHANGE was created as a platform to encourage faculty to collaborate across and beyond the Iowa State campus to build science-based partnerships to meet 21stcentury challenges and opportunities in agriculture, technology and innovation,” said Lisa Schulte Moore, C-CHANGE director and professor of Natural Resource Ecology and Management at Iowa State. “From wind energy to ethanol, biodiesel, and solar, Iowa has been an innovator and leader in renewable energy. We believe this conference can help our state carve out a leadership position in biogas that can foster growth in the rural economy, while also delivering a positive impact on the environment.”

The conference, taking place at the Hilton Des Moines Downtown Hotel, is structured to share information and generate discussion regarding feedstocks, anaerobic digestion, coproducts, distribution,  financing, policy, market opportunities, and societal impact. Encouraged to attend are agricultural business and energy industry representatives, farmers and farmland owners, entrepreneurs, college and graduate students, researchers, governmental officials and representatives of agricultural, energy and environmental non-governmental organizations.

Bryan Sievers, who is helping plan and will present at the conference, heads up Sievers Family Farms and AgriReNew located in Scott County near Davenport, Iowa. The Sievers Farm operation partners with Glenora Feed Yard to capture manure from their beef cattle feedlot operations. Using an anaerobic digester system, AgriReNew converts the manure, along with waste streams from several agricultural processing facilities in the region, into methane that powers a generator to produce enough electricity to power approximately 1,000 homes annually. The two 970,000-gallon digesters also produce an abundant supply of rich, environmentally-friendly natural fertilizers that provide valuable nutrients to farms in the area, thereby virtually eliminating the need for imported, inorganic forms of fertilizer.

“As a lifelong Iowan, I care deeply about soil health, clean water and economic opportunity in rural Iowa,” Sievers said. “By growing a vibrant biogas market, through good policy, we can meet all three of these goals.”

The conference kicks off with a pre-dinner mixer starting at 5 pm, Wednesday, March 25. The next day-and-a-half will feature a diverse panel of speakers representing science, practice and policy aspects of developing the value chain, including Dave Babson, U.S. Department of Energy (science), Rudi Roeslein from Roeslein Alternative Energy (practice) and Patrick Serfass from the American Biogas Council (policy), among others. Registration is available now at the new C-CHANGE website,

C-CHANGE was established in 2018 as an Iowa State Presidential Interdisciplinary Research Initiative (PIRI). Iowa State launched PIRI in 2014 to encourage the creation of large-scale interdisciplinary teams – distinguished by intellectual excellence and driven by a clear vision of fundamental advances – to explore new discoveries or technological developments with state, national and global impacts.

The C-CHANGE mission is to return value to people and the land through research partnerships and work in four platforms:

  • Smart Technologies – Technologies that improve farm productivity, profitability and stewardship;
  • Coupled Systems – Integratging food, energy and water systems to improve and create new products and services;
  • Socioeconomic Innovations – Advancing investment in the long-term care of rural and natural assets; and
  • Leadership and Engagement – Fostering diverse participation and partnerships to create new value.

“Meeting the food and nutrition needs of a world population of 10 billion people while maintaining and enhancing our natural resources is one of the single greatest challenges facing our global society in the 21st century,” said Wendy Wintersteen, Iowa State University President. “The work that C-CHANGE is spearheading – including the upcoming Conference on Agriculture, Technology and Innovation – is a shining example of the positive impacts Iowa State can make when the university brings together diverse disciplines and perspectives for a shared purpose of innovating better solutions to significant challenges.”