Bion is a public company (OTC QB: BNET) whose mission is to provide sustainable environmental and economic solutions to the food and livestock industry and investment returns to its shareholders. Bion’s patented and proven technology platform provides comprehensive treatment of livestock waste that largely eliminates its environmental impacts, while simultaneously recovering valuable assets from the waste stream, including renewable energy, nutrients and clean water.
Direct treatment of livestock waste can provide high-impact and cost-effective improvements to a number of our Nation’s air, water and public health challenges – many of which have been directly tied to large-scale livestock production. Efficient resource recovery also represents a much-needed cleantech solution for the $180 billion meat, egg and dairy industry that will improve its bottom-line.
The technology platform is a modular system that can be configured in a variety of ways, depending on farm-specific needs. The system creates new revenue sources and other opportunities for the producer. Environmental benefits, as well as energy- and resource-efficiency improvements, are verified and can be communicated to the consumer in a sustainable brand that will be certified by the USDA. The industry has clearly signaled its intent to move toward increased sustainability, as well as translate those improvements to an increasingly critical consumer base.
In 1986, Jere Northrop, PhD-biophysics, demonstrated the ability to grow and control large populations of naturally-occurring bacteria that could be used to treat the waste from livestock production facilities using substantially less energy than traditional wastewater treatment methods. While there was no broad mandate at that time to reduce nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorus) in our waterways, the impacts of excess nutrients were beginning to appear and Bion’s R&D efforts began.
Since the passage of the Clean Water Act, the understanding of the causes and effects of excess nutrients has improved. Since the Pew Oceans Commission report in 2003 that identified animal feedlots as a “major threat to our oceans”, more than 30 major studies have examined the impacts of nutrients on watersheds and their estuaries, both in the U.S. and globally. In 2010, US EPA established nutrient limits for the Chesapeake Bay that require substantial reductions from the six Bay states and DC. In 2013, US EPA began referring to excess nutrients as “the greatest water quality problem in the U.S.” In August 2014, the following stories made national headlines:
- Washington Post – Large ‘dead zone’ signals more problems for Chesapeake Bay
- CNN – ‘Dead zone’ in the Gulf of Mexico is the size of Connecticut
- NPR (OH) – Toledo Water Ban Persists After New Test Results Cause Concerns
A Changing Clean Water Strategy
To deal with looming compliance costs in the billions of dollars, many states in the U.S. are developing strategies that address ‘non-point’ sources such as agriculture, the largest unregulated source of nutrients in most watersheds. Nutrient trading programs that allow regulated ‘point source’ polluters to acquire lower-cost reductions from agriculture have now been implemented in 20 states. More are coming. This is a fundamental change that will allow the private sector to provide innovative low cost solutions to the problem.
Bion can supply large numbers of these credits at very low cost through the treatment of animal waste at large-scale livestock facilities. Bion systems are permitted just like a municipal waste or industrial treatment facility and the credits produced are third-party verified. These ‘point source reductions from a non-point source’ can be used to offset EPA point-source requirements, including those for stormwater.
Wisconsin recently passed the Clean Waters Healthy Economy Act. Legislation has been introduced in Pennsylvania in response to a 2013 bipartisan legislative study that concluded a competitive bidding strategy open to all sources could save the state’s taxpayers up to $1.5 billion annually. In April 2017 Illinois announced it was moving toward a trading strategy. Change is happening now.
The US EPA, USDA, Office of Management and Budget and other federal agencies have supported a voluntary strategy that will engage the private sector for several years. Legislation was introduced in U.S. Congress in 2016 to apply the U.S. energy tax credit to nutrient recovery projects. The Trump Administration has expressed its support of market-driven strategies that reduce costs. They have also threatened to substantially reduce federal funding for both EPA and environmental and conservation funding, which would further drive the need for more cost-effective spending.
This is a game-changer
Former Executive Deputy Secretary of Programs
Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection
Bion’s treatment solutions are a combination of biological, mechanical, and thermal processes that are proven in commercial operations and have been accepted by EPA, USDA and other regulatory agencies. Bion’s core biological processes are protected by seven U.S. patents, with two pending, and six international patents, with applications pending in the EU, New Zealand, Mexico, Brazil, Argentina and Australia. There is no other known cost-effective technology that provides Bion’s level of treatment of wet livestock waste.
Bion systems can remove and recover nutrients in livestock wastewater at a fraction of the cost of traditional wastewater treatment options, including current agricultural practices. And unlike most of our agricultural practices, Bion’s nutrient reductions can be measured and quantified like a point source. Further, nutrients are stabilized into a more ‘available’ form for crops, which creates better efficiency and much less impact on the environment.
Developing Market for Cleaning Up – Credits
Livestock waste is one of the largest unregulated sources of excess nutrients in most major watersheds; direct treatment represents a large untapped source of low-cost nutrient reductions/ credits. Bion’s technology is the only one at this time approved to generate verified credits from nutrient reductions from wet livestock waste – dairy, beef, and swine – that can be used as a qualified offset to EPA nutrient reduction mandates. Bion has estimated the market for nutrient reduction credits in the U.S. alone at $8 to $10 billion annually.
There is a growing focus by US EPA on stormwater treatment, where runoff from rain and snow melt from urban and rural areas is captured and treated. Stormwater treatment is one of the most expensive ways to remove nitrogen from a watershed and air emissions from livestock waste are one of its greatest sources. Increased attention is also being paid to elevated nitrate levels in aquifers and water wells in areas surrounding livestock production. The steeply escalating cost of clean water is forcing a change in our clean water strategy to address unregulated agricultural sources.
Third Gen Technology is a Game-Changer
In 2014, Bion began filing patents on its next-generation (3G) technology platform that substantially increases the value of byproducts that are recovered from the waste stream, including renewable energy and a natural nitrogen-rich fertilizer product that Bion believes will be certified for use in organic production. Pilot studies indicate that at sufficient scale, the 3G technology will produce enough value from byproducts that Bion will no longer be dependent on selling nutrient reduction credits to move forward with certain projects. A commercial-scale pilot is planned for the second quarter of 2017.
Production agriculture, environmental necessities and raw economics are coming together like never before. Companies on the cutting edge of these efforts, like Bion, can change the entire way that farming and natural resource management have been done throughout our history.
Former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture
Powerful Incentives to Adopt Bion’s Technology
Realization of livestock production’s environmental issues, coupled with higher energy costs and drought, has significantly impacted the industry’s economics as well. Using Bion’s technology, new state-of-the-art production facilities can be permitted and developed in strategic locations that enjoy a dramatically reduced environmental footprint as well as improved resource and operational efficiencies. Existing operations can be retro-fitted to achieve many of the same benefits.
In either a new or existing facility, waste stream assets that have traditionally been wasted or under-utilized – nutrients, energy and water – can be recovered in a stable usable form. New revenue sources can be created through the production of value-added by-products. Bion-enabled facilities will produce clean, safe dairy/meat products that can be branded to appeal to increasing consumer demand for food safety and environmentally-sustainable practices. Just as important, voluntary cleanup will forestall inevitable regulation which would be a long drawn-out and costly process. Voluntary reductions will happen far more quickly.
An Untapped Opportunity
As of 2012, there were nine million dairy cows, 80 million beef cattle, 62 million swine and billions of poultry in the U.S. that produce 100 times more waste of our human population…and the livestock waste is spread on our fields untreated. According to a recent report by US EPA, more than 55 percent of the country’s rivers and streams are in poor biological health; the most widespread problem is excessive levels of nutrient pollution. The U.S. livestock industry must reduce its footprint while improving its efficiencies if it is to remain environmentally and economically sustainable in the modern world.
This cleanup is essentially brand new – untapped. Bion’s technology has been tested and proven in commercial applications for more than 20 years. The technology, coupled with Bion’s unique understanding of this new space and its respect among critical stakeholders, positions the Company to capitalize on changes to our country’s clean water strategies that have already begun and the inevitable changes coming to the livestock industry.
The livestock industry has begun to recognize the issues it faces and the alternatives Bion’s technology can enable. Several large representatives of the industry have become very supportive of Bion’s competitive bidding strategy, including PA Farm Bureau, the National Milk Producers Federation, and JBS (the largest meat supplier in the world). Coupled with a growing understanding of real clean water costs on the part of other stakeholders, we believe this bodes well for the company and our shareholders.
The farming community has long awaited this important opportunity, which allows the financing and installation of new technologies to reduce the amount of nutrients flowing into our Nation’s watersheds. The proposed legislation to implement a competitive bidding process for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is cutting-edge public policy and will lead to improved water management with lower costs to the citizens.
Former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture and Governor of North Dakota
Bion Executive Vice Chairman