Composting Corn for Heat Recovery

2007 Annual Report for FNC05-562

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2005: $6,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2008
Grant Recipient: Jellum Farm
Region: North Central
State: Iowa
Project Coordinator:
Eric Jellum
Jellum Farm

Composting Corn for Heat Recovery


I spent quite a bit of time designing in my head the vessel to do the screening trials. This was followed by several pilot vessels with each one modified for the following one. After some back and forth discussions with Kapil Arora, my ISU ag engineer cohort on the project, we felt comfortable that the design we implemented was adequate. The pictures show eight of these vessels as they were installed for insulation and plumbed for air supply both for compost aeration and for heat exchange.
[Editor’s Note: To see copies of the photos, please contact the NCR-SARE office at: or 1-800-529-1342.]

The results from our trials that were designed to optimize the aeration rate have us scratching our heads now. Apparently it is more difficult to channel the air through the compost than we expected. This step is essential to get right before continuing on. My initial plan to make this a good winter project was challenged by my ability to keep the space heated without a serious investment. My reaction was to wait until summer when warm temperatures would preclude the need for heated space. But summer became too busy and now here we are with winter again. One of the reasons that the project is dragging out so long is that I spend a lot of time designing, modifying, and incubating ideas in my mind before actually constructing. Another is that Kapil is a very busy man. Although he is very interested in the project and I have a very good working relationship with him, the University keeps him very busy with other projects and responsibilities. So the back and forth discussions that I have with him can drag out over a long time. Our excitement for the project hasn’t abated. We just don’t have undivided time to devote to it, and it doesn’t seem like something that should be rushed along too much. I also think that we will benefit from more time between each step for idea incubation and to incorporate results from one trial into the next. It still surprises me to see how much an idea can evolve just by thinking about it before a hammer is even raised.