GRANTS PROMOTE ENERGY EFFICIENT FARM PROGRAMS
MONTGOMERY, Ala. -- More than $350,000 in grants have been awarded to Auburn University for a series of projects designed to save energy, encourage conservation, promote recycling and improve agricultural production.
The grants were awarded through funds made available to the state through the U.S. Department of Energy's Oil Overcharge Restitution program.
Eight grants, totaling $350,489, were awarded to the university to fund projects that range from converting waste into a fuel for heating to using global positioning system devices to improve farm production and reduce costs.
"Even as our state becomes more urban and industrialized, agriculture continues to play a vital role in the lives of Alabamians, providing a livelihood for many and sustenance for the rest of us in the form of food and fiber," said Gov. Bob Riley, who announced the grants. "We must ensure in this computer age that our farmers have the technology and knowledge necessary to produce essential crops while preserving our natural resources for future generations."
A $50,000 grant will demonstrate the advantages of using automated aeration controls to provide oxygen in catfish ponds. AU's Department of Fisheries and Allied Aquacultures will set up exhibit ponds in west Alabama and at university fisheries. The proper concentration of oxygen is critical to the survival of catfish. Automated controls are more energy efficient than systems that are operated manually or with a timer. Catfish farming is a $70 million industry in Alabama and employs more than 3,000 people, including many in economically distressed areas of west Alabama.
Also awarded were:
• Three grants totaling $149,966 to demonstrate the usefulness of biofuel pellets, biomass gases and vapors and recycled vegetable oil as an economical fuel source for heating chicken houses and greenhouses.
• A $45,250 grant for a demonstration on time saving and fuel efficiency through use of global positioning devices. GPS bars attached to tractors and mobile farm machinery reduces overlap on fields and also provides more efficient and effective applications of fertilizers and agricultural chemicals.
• A $50,000 grant to demonstrate an energy efficient method of drying and storing grain. The demonstration at Dee River Ranch in Aliceville uses recycled heat to dry grain and prevent spoilage.
• A $6,635 grant to demonstrate the benefits of minimal tilling of grain fields. Already used by cotton farmers, the demonstration will attempt to show the practice can also be used effectively on corn and grain crops to save fuel, preserve soil moisture and reduce erosion.
• A $48,638 grant for a demonstration in north Alabama showing the efficiency of diesel fuels made in part from the oil of soybeans and other crops. Sixteen row-crop farmers will attempt to show that biodiesel fuel can be used in conventional farm machinery, burns cleaner than regular diesel, reduces dependence on foreign oil and increases demand for Alabama crops for use as a fuel source.
John Harrison, director of the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs, notified Dr. William Walker, president of Auburn University, that the grants have been approved. ADECA is administering the grants through its Science, Technology and Energy Division.