Options Magazine, Winter 2022: A new study provides ways to combine efficient energy solutions with comprehensive waste management to make the Latin American dairy sector more sustainable.

Industries around the world are looking to become more sustainable through increasing resource efficiency. Now the time has come for Latin America’s dairy sector to join these efforts.

While this industry is undergoing tremendous growth, it is doing so without a clear path forward on either sustainable energy sources or comprehensive waste management solutions.

In a study, which started as an IIASA Young Scientists Summer Program (YSSP) project in 2019, and is now published in the journal Energy Conversion and Management, former YSSP participant Jhonny Villarroel Schneider, his YSSP supervisor Lena Höglund-Isaksson, and coauthors, propose integrated solutions to these challenges through a waste-to-energy approach.

The study shows that there is no single, one-size-fitsall approach for these farms. For example, the biogas generated on large and medium-sized farms is enough for energy self-sufficiency for most of the sector. Treating this manure in biogas digesters also helps reduce the volume of manure, which facilitates its use as a fertilizer. This, in turn, helps reduce greenhouse gases in terms of less methane during manure handling and less nitrous oxide emissions from soils when mineral fertilizers are replaced.

“Our findings show that different technical solutions are needed for different sizes of farms,” explains Höglund-Isaksson, a senior researcher in the IIASA Energy, Climate, and Environment Program. “I think this study is a good example of how interdisciplinary research (engineering, economics, social, and environmental sciences) can provide concrete solutions for how a sector can transform in a direction that is beneficial for the stakeholders, the economy, and the environment.”

by Jeremy Summers


Villarroel-Schneider, J., Höglund-Isaksson, L. , Mainali, B., Martí-Herrero, J., Cardozo, E., Malmquist, A., & Martin, A. (2022). Energy self-sufficiency and greenhouse gas emission reductions in Latin American dairy farms through massive implementation of biogas-based solutions. Energy Conversion and Management 261 e115670. 10.1016/j.enconman.2022.115670.