Uncoupling The Food Production Nexus With A Proven Bioconversion Process Architecture To Achieve Scalable Moonshot Results
The vision is to deploy proven and novel bioconversion systems that eliminate resource interlinkages constricting food production systems.
Earthrise as Seen from Apollo 8. The Theme of this Vision is to Deploy Distributed Resource Moonshots to See the Earth Rise to Meet the Food Needs of Hungry Human Masses While Not Compromising Environments, Ecologies, or Harming God's Other Creatures on the Planet
Lead Applicant Organization Name
Borun BCS 375 Vineyard Lane Exton, PA 19341 USA
A Division of Borun, Zibo, China
Lead Applicant Organization Type
Large company (over 50 employees)
If part of a multi-stakeholder entity (i.e. team), provide the names of other organizations and types of stakeholders collaborating with you.
Colonel E. K. Smith (ret.), Mr. Andrew Carranco, & Mr. Chendo Carranco
(RGPA 6553 Star Court Laredo, Texas 78041 USA)
Ms. Jennifer Hamilton
(Barod-4 Investment Group 130 Redwing Court Laredo, Texas 78045 USA)
Mr. Bing Chen & Ms. Zhou Yang
(Borun No.369 Yumin Road High & New Technology District Zibo, Shandong Province, China)
Website of Legally Registered Entity
http://www.birtley.us (US HQ, Birtley is a wholly owned subsidiary of Borun)
How long have you / your team been working on this Vision?
Lead Applicant: In what city or town are you located?
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania USA and
Zibo, Shandong Province, PRC
Lead Applicant: In what country are you located?
United States of America and
Peoples Republic of China
Your Selected Place: what’s the name of the Place you’re developing a Vision for?
Webb County, Texas, USA 8,741 km² and
Zibo Prefecture, Shandong Province, China 5,695 km²
What country is your selected Place located in?
United States of America and
Peoples Republic of China
Describe your relationship to the place you’ve selected.
Dr. Rozich has been working with local players in the Webb County area since 2016 developing a project with the City of Laredo to install a cutting-edge technology that reduces the City’s operational costs by almost $1.5 million per year. This goal is realized by converting excess biomass produced by the City’s wastewater treatment plants into renewable products such as energy, fertilizer, and water. These efforts required numerous trips to Webb County which involved meeting with our team, City engineers and officials, and other individuals connected with, or who have an interest in, the project. The frequent trips enabled Dr. Rozich to get a feel of the local culture and cuisine. One of the most positively striking realizations is the inherent pride of the locals. The “Tex-Mex” ethos is one deeply rooted in family, faith, humble pride, and a vibrant work ethic ensconced with a demonstrative “can do” attitude. An inventor could not put their technology offspring in better hands.
In China, Dr. Rozich was recruited and vetted to be a Sustainability Foreign Expert for the Zibo Prefecture. As such, he has made numerous trips to China since early 2018. He has performed numerous functions for his employer, Borun, which is headquartered in Zibo. These functions included Chief Science Officer, sales and marketing, technical presentations, and engineering. It is noteworthy that the Chinese really appreciate people who respect their culture. Consequently, Rozich’s experience involved a fair degree of cultural immersion and he was thus schooled regarding procedures of etiquette that surrounded social interactions, particularly those that involved business meetings. Chinese has a refreshing tendency to blur the lines between business and personal interactions. This inclination is most notable at Chinese business meals which are often protracted affairs, particularly compared to Western norms. All these experiences impart to one an authentic sense of belonging and connection.
Describe the People and Place: Provide information that would be helpful for an outsider who has never been there and may have no context about this Place to better understand the area.
Maps are given for the two project places in Webb County/Laredo, Texas USA and Zibo, Shandong Province, China. These maps provide the reader with the relative geographical orientation of the places chosen for the project.
Laredo, Texas/Webb County Overview Video
Webb County is a county located in the United States in the state of Texas. An overview video is provided above. Its current population is about 275,000 with about 260,000 residing in the City of Laredo metropolitan area. It is the sixth largest county in Texas. In the early twenty-first century, international trade, tourism, manufacturing, and the production of natural gas and oil were important elements of the local economy. A lesser known fact about Webb County is its significance for international trade. The Laredo port of entry which is in Webb County accounts for almost $300 billion worth of international commerce within the state of Texas. According to the Texas Comptroller, trade through the Laredo port of entry impacts almost 500,000 jobs in Texas, and creates almost $80 billion in gross domestic product (GDP). Webb County was listed in Sperling’s Best places as it is projected to have an increase in job rates of over 30% (https://www.bestplaces.net/economy/county/texas/webb). The early twenty-first century international trade, tourism, manufacturing, and the production of natural gas and oil were important elements of the Webb County economy. The county has numerous farms and ranches with over 2 million acres of which over 90% are devoted to pasture. Interestingly, both energy production and farming operations need water. Details on county demographics are provided here: https://datausa.io/profile/geo/webb-county-tx/.
Zibo Prefecture is in central Shandong province, China. Zibo governs 5 districts (Zhangdian, Zichuan, Boshan, Zhoucun and the Linzi) and these districts each have a distinct downtown area. An overview video is provided above. The prefecture has a total area of 5,938 km2 (2,293 sq mi) and a population of about population is 4.73 million (http://www.citypopulation.de/en/china/cities/shandong/) including the counties of Huantai, Gaoqing, and Yiyuan. Zibo is lush with history as it was the birthplace of the Qi culture. The City is notable for expertise in ceramic technology and art. Zibo is a popular tourist city.
Manufacturing holds an important place in the Zibo's economy, particularly ceramics manufacturing. Other key industries include the petrochemical industry, pharmaceuticals, metallurgy, construction materials, machinery and textile. High and new-technology industries, such as new materials, fine chemicals, electronics and information, and biological medicines are also developing rapidly. Additionally, Zibo has special agricultural economic zones, such as high-quality special grain, vegetables, fruits, silkworms, livestock and freshwater breeding. Numerous brands of pollution-free agricultural products, green food, and organic agricultural products are made. Linzi District is the national standardized agricultural demonstration area. Yiyuan County is the demonstration base county of the national pollution-free fruit production. Gaoqing County is a national standard demonstration area for black cattle farming industry in Shandong.
Challenges: Describe the current (2020) and the future (2050) challenges that your food system faces.
Both geographies are grappling with nexus-induced resource challenges. In Texas, there is a general resource competition for water between energy and food production. Farmers decide between selling water to energy companies or use it to produce food. The situation in Zibo Prefecture is even more acute. As noted by Liu, et. al. (Water, 2019, 11, 1630), “The safety of water resources and the ecological environment in the Asian region is facing severe challenges with the rapid socio-economic development.” For both the Texas and Shandong regions, a prudent solution is to deploy technology that can uncouple resource linkages and thereby ameliorate water demand and usage commitments. The proposed solution herein can meet this requirement cost-effectively and with minimal resource footprint that highly leverages use of existing infrastructure.
By 2012, water withdrawals in Texas for thermoelectric production were already significant and there were other competing water withdrawals for domestic, industrial, and agricultural concerns (Rozich, A.F., Other Inconvenient Truths Beyond Global Warming, Super Nexus Press, Exton, PA, 2015). Competing demands for water were created because it is needed for energy and a key source is thermoelectric which uses water. Heat waves and drought deplete critical deposits of water while at the same time increasing water demand in the various areas of societal functionality. The result is there is not enough water to meet all the requirements of the water users. Furthermore, the population of Webb County may increase in 2050 as much as 90% (Hobby Center for the Study of Texas at Rice University (https://hobbycenter.rice.edu/sites/g/files/bxs1526/f/Laredo%20demographic%20trends%20-%20mec%20-110514.pdf). As water and energy are so heavily interlinked here, resource demands become very challenging in a nexus scenario.
For 2050 Zibo Prefecture, population increase as is not expected to be significant (Gua, A., et. al., “Predicting the Future Chinese Populations Using the Shared Socioeconomic Pathways, the Sixth National Census, and a PDE Model”, Sustainability, 2019, 11, 3686). It’s challenge is the 2050 projection of the Chinese middle class growing from 400 million to 900 million (People’s Daily On-Line, April 17, 2018). The McKinsey Global Institute projects large numbers of people (up to 3 billion people worldwide) that transition to the middle class (https://www.mckinsey.com/~/media/McKinsey/Business%20Functions/Sustainability/Our%20Insights/Resource%20revolution/MGI_Resource_revolution_full_report.ashx) producing a situation where “Demand is soaring at a time when finding new sources of supply, and extracting them, is becoming increasingly challenging and expensive.” Both Webb County and Zibo Prefecture have similar resource challenges. One is created by population growth while the other is caused population transition from one class to another.
Address the Challenges: Describe how your Vision will address the challenges described in the previous question.
A summary of the how the Vision addresses the challenges is also given in two power point slides (https://challenges.openideo.com/attachments/59255290-18fa-44b3-ade9-8a0bc0de87b3.pptx?id=14507). The Vision has six main constraints that all need to be satisfied. These are: 1. Environment, 2. Diets, 3. Economics, 4. Culture, 5. Technology, and 6. Policy. The Vision technology converts waste biomass into useable renewable products for enhancing food production functionality using a process with a negative carbon footprint. By providing renewable resources for food production, the Vision can make food production “diet agnostic” and eminently sustainable while the overconsumption issue of Diet can be addressed separately. An Economic analysis of the Vision technology architecture shows robust returns and cogent fiscal integrity. It is notable that biomass is a multi-tasking renewable that can be pivotal for poverty reduction. Although Culture governs food preferences, It is suggested that leveraging technology that enables food production to be sustainable engenders a system that is “culturally agnostic” which obviates the need to dislodge entrenched cultural food preferences because of the availability of ample resources. The Vision Technology architecture is implemented using “plug ‘n’ play” mantra and leveraging the utilization of existing infrastructure assets and has a 25-year installation and 50-year development history, respectively and is both proven and novel. Regarding Policy, the Vision can either leverage policy if it is conducive for a sustainable initiative or rely on technology attributes which leverage underlying economic forces for propagating the Vision for food production renovation.
The Vision has seven main Evaluation Criteria that must be satisfied. These are: 1. Systems Approach, 2. Transformative Potential, 3. Community Informed, 4. Inspiring, 5. Feasible, 6. Community Co-Created, and 7. Climate Resilience. The Vision execution protocol is overviewed in the attached file, “AFC Tech Overview” which shows the Vision Systems Approach. Transformative Potential because proliferation of a circular food production economy that can be implemented by leveraging existing infrastructure assets. The Community is Informed because there are team members on the ground for community interaction. The Vision will catalyze Inspiration in and of itself which is augmented by the sustainability DNA and gravitas associated with the selected communities. The Vision is Feasible via the use of proven and novel technology that is financially robust. The team is integrally embedded in the target communities which facilitates Community Co-Creation. The distributed resource mantra of the Vision technology inculcates nouveau food production system with Climate Resilience.
High Level Vision: With these challenges addressed, now provide a high level description of how the Place and the lives of its People will be different than they are now.
The high-level Vision is about food security and freedom of choice. Conceptually, as famously stated in the US Declaration of Independence, people are “are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” A food production system must strive to encompass these considerations.
Not only should people be properly fed and nourished. They should also be free to consume their familiar and culturally-bequeathed foods with impunity and without resource constriction.
However, what the Founding Fathers of the US did not anticipate some 250 years ago is a world where humanity’s increases in numbers and societal functionality are such that non-anthropogenic environs are increasingly threatened and under siege. Much of this situation is attributable to civilization’s relentless drive to feed ever-increasing populations and meet the culinary demands of nouveau upwardly-mobile, burgeoning societies. At first glance, this situation appears to be an indeterminable oxymoron prompting concerns over the potentialities of environmental or societal cataclysmic events or both.
However, by employing the tenets of Occam’s Razor which is a “solutions-efficient” dictum, one can produce food and realize the concomitant need for sustainable and environmental gravitas. Basically, one stipulates the design and operational requirements for a technology platform that meets or exceeds the preponderance of the Food System Vision requirements. This stipulation ensures that the Vision goals determine the functionality of the technology and not vice-versa. The technology must be sustainable, green, and capable of using renewable feedstock to meet food production resource requirements.
Logically, if a technology can satiate the stated Vision constraints and requirements, it is up to the Vision Deployers to manage the engineering control variables to optimally and sustainably operate a circular food production system.
Full Vision: How do you describe your Vision for a regenerative and nourishing food future for your Place and People for 2050?
This video presents an overview of the technology architecture that plays a key role in implementing the Vision. The piece is a bit outdated but presents the key concepts surrounding the technology architecture. An updated perspective of the technology architecture is given in a powerpoint presentation entitled, "AFC Tech Overview Jan 2020." This file is in the Attachments.
Dr. Rozich overviews sustainability considerations for agriculture and food production systems. This Video shows a talk that Dr. Rozich gave to the Philadelphia Society for Promoting Agriculture. The talk overviews the looming resource crisis that is threatening agricultural and food production systems and explores solutions. Excerpts from other talks are also provided that discuss technology architecture solutions.
Proprietary Process and Systems Engineering Approach for the Design and Operation of Bioconversion Systems
Respirometric Data are Converted to Growth Rate Information in Order to Calculate Biokinetic Parameters which Along with Engineering Control Parameters Facilitate Accurate Customization of Process Designs and Operational Modifications as Needed
Bioconversion System Making Fertilizer at an Industrial Plant in 2004
Plug 'n' Play Approach for Efficient and Rapid Technology Installation
Selected Technology Architecture for Implementing Regional Food Vision
Vision Development: Strategy, Occam’s Razor, and AFC Technology
Dr. Rozich discusses sustainability considerations for agriculture and food production in a video given above. The stated objective of a Food Systems Visionary as noted by the Rockefeller Foundation (RF) is to develop a vision that reflects the views and needs of multiple stakeholders within a given system. Six elements, or constraints, are believed to comprise this vision: 1. Environment, 2. Diets, 3. Economics, 4. Culture, 5. Technology, and 6. Policy. In complicated scenarios, it is often better to abide by the teachings of Father William of Occam, a Franciscan Friar from the Middle Ages. He is famously known for “Occam’s Razor”. Occam’s Razor stipulates that the components for finding a solution should not be increased unless exigency is necessary. It is a “solutions-efficient” dictum from the 14th Century that is helpful for reconciling optimal societal functionality. This result is tantamount to consummating an authentic and operationally realistic Food Systems Vision and make it a Renewable Food Systems Reality. It advocates the law of parsimony or frugality of analysis in resolving complex problems. Thus, in effectuating a systems solution for a food system challenge, it is critical to identify the governing parameters or what can be characterized as the “selectable engineering control variables.”
Logically, if a technology can satiate the stated constraints, it is up to the Vision Deployers to manage the engineering control variables to optimally and sustainably meet or exceed those constraints.
It is critical to define and distinguish the RF Food Vision elements from the more comprehensive Food Vision. The six RF elements should be viewed as system constraints while the overall vision is more complicated mélange of engineering design equations and relationships formulated using mass and energy balances that govern the use of the technology in a specific application. The key for meeting the six constraints and ensuring that they are satisfactorily considered and met is heavily dependent on the technology architecture chosen to implement the vision. The AFC Technology is summarized in a powerpoint presentation that is entitled, “AFC Tech Overview January 2020", https://challenges.openideo.com/attachments/ffdaa483-7d18-49f7-a431-2fd55a349648.pptx?id=14106 and in a video above and one in the Attachments https://challenges.openideo.com/attachments/4cfb7836-2820-419f-ad87-c84dfbc7d634.mp4?id=14508. This mature technology is built on 50 years of developmental and full-scale experience. It has 25 year installation theme of unique process integration using proven “off the shelf” equipment. Long term operating systems and technology readily implementable using “plug ‘n’ play” approach. The technology can produce multiple renewable, commercially valuable products while achieving high rates (90% <) of biomass conversion with numerous applications as shown in Figure FV1 (see above).
AFC systems can be rapidly deployed by taking advantage of existing infrastructure assets at municipal and industrial wastewater treatment plants. This feature of the technology enables a “plug ‘n’ play” implementation approach as shown in Figure FV2 allows for the rapid deployment of the technology regionally to make resources that are needed for agriculture and food production locally available. The plug ‘n’ play approach not only reduces the need for capital because it makes the most out of existing infrastructure assets thus reducing implementation time.
The renewables production strategy is to take municipal biomass that is currently being burned or buried and convert it to energy, fertilizer, and water. The approach for our vision is to make either electricity or CNG for energy. For fertilizer, the technology can produce over two dozen specific fertilizer compounds. Figure FV3 shows a system making fertilizer in 2001. The initial approach will make standards such as ammonia hydroxide and phosphoric acid. These green products are chemically identical to their fossil fuel brethren. The difference is that they are manufactured using a renewable feedstock that is processed with a system with a negative carbon footprint. For more information on green ammonia, see Attachment entitled “Rock Food Prize #2” and click on the link entitled, “Green Ammonia May Reduce Global GHG Emissions by Over 1% and Decarbonize the Energy Economy”. As green ammonia is highly desirable, the AFC technology and its deployment in municipal and industrial treatment plants enables society to make it en masse using a distributed resource model. It is important to note that food production relies largely on energy, water, and fertilizer. These renewable resources are provided using AFC Technology from readily available biomass that is produced as a result of societal functionality.
Arguably, the convenient and economic availability of renewable energy, water, and fertilizer for food system operations ensures that all stakeholder constraints are met. The result is a circular regional food system economy that functions using a distributed resource mantra to achieve scalable Moonshot results.
Vision Implementation: Regional Deployment of Technology Solution
The primary component of Vision Implementation is logistics. The specific orchestration of the logistics protocol is largely driven by Food Resource Exigency that is attributable to resource paucity in a specific quadrant or sector within the designated region. Operationally, it is prudent to “rank” the “hot spots” where resources are hindering food production. For example, in Texas, some farmers may have commitments to sell water for energy production and do not have water resources for food production.
With a proper technology solution, the Texas farmers do not have to choose between selling water to energy companies or producing food. They can do both.
As detailed elsewhere (http://factsanddetails.com/china/cat9/sub63/item348.html), Zibo Prefecture has its own set of resource challenges for food production. In addition to water resource constrictions, the Chinese use more fertilizer than any other farmers in the world. China is the world’s largest manufacturer of fossil ammonia fertilizer using the Haber Process which is an energy-intensive and expensive process. Given the prodigious use of fertilizer and the cost, it is likely that Chinese farmers are severely income-challenged given that the government restricts farm sizes to less than 10 acres. Furthermore, unreliable water availability contributes to spurious resource reliance.
With a proper technology solution, Zibo and Shandong’s farmers can have low-cost, high-grade fertilizer which improves production, enhances farmers’ net income, and ensures the Province that food production is resilient.
Vision Implementation: Flexibility for Implementing Technology Solution
One of the features of the technology solution is its ability to be deployed in a plug ‘n’ play mode (see “AFC Tech Overview January 2020” https://challenges.openideo.com/attachments/ffdaa483-7d18-49f7-a431-2fd55a349648.pptx?id=14106). This feature means that existing infrastructure can be leveraged which enables the implementation of the technology in specific locations by “dropping in” self-sufficient equipment containers that have all the necessary accoutrements so that the units can be literally plugged in to the systems. If necessary, key utility units can also be deployed. A proprietary process engineering approach that we use is given in Figure FV4.
The technology converts various feedstock streams which include: 1. Excess biomass produced from farming operations, 2. Domestic wastewater and/or biomass, and 3. Industrial wastewater. A key logistics effort is to find candidate feedstock streams that are generated in the proximity of target food production (farm operations) locations. Excess biomass from farming operations can be co-processed along with an industrial wastewater or domestic wastewater in AFC systems that are installed close to target farm operations. It should be noted that water and/or fertilizer that is produced will be of appropriate quality for use in agricultural operations.
Vision Implementation: Case Study Preliminary Design Reality Check and Value Proposition
Our team has been working on a candidate treatment plant located at a City in Texas. The City is interested in reducing sludge production and associated disposal costs and has made their biomass available for our team. A team member, RGPA (Rio Grande Power Alliance) executed an agreement to install AFC technology at a City wastewater treatment plant. The implementation plan leverages installed infrastructure assets..
This one AFC system is projected to have Moonshot Results such as annually producing 175 million gallons of water that can be used for agricultural purposes along with 657,000 gallons of CNG (gasoline equivalent). Also, the system will also generate 2 million gallons of 20% pharmaceutical grade aqua ammonia fertilizer. The financial analysis indicates that the system will have a return of over 50%. Detailed information on this project is available to RF reviewers per request. This technique is readily scalable.
The Texas work is significant because it is built on the experience of over 50 years of development. This includes 25 years of full-scale experience on three continents and extensive pilot and engineering work performed on this project. Another key consideration is the fact that many wastewater treatment plants are designed similarly all over the world. Consequently, it is reasonable suggest that the AFC architecture is ideally suited as technology conduit to have a transformative impact that re-invents food production systems as we now know them.
How did you hear about the Food System Vision Prize?