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Anaerobic Digester Operator Discussion Group


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The Anaerobic Digester Workforce Development Project is a project funded by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, aimed at developing and delivering high quality educational programs targeted to a range of workforces within the dairy farm-based anaerobic digestion (AD) sector of the clean energy field.

A goal of the project was to form a farmer driven discussion group among existing AD owners and operators. Farmers value and learn from the insights of fellow producers because they trust the experience and knowledge of others who are in situations similar to their own. This is especially true when adopting new technology. The purpose of this discussion group was to allow farmers an opportunity to learn from each other by sharing their real world experiences integrating and operating an anaerobic digester system into their farm business. Realizing that frequent, long-distance travel of all involved was a barrier to continued, dedicated involvement, the group opted to pursue a virtually-based discussion group platform. Farmers from across the state were linked via an online meeting site. This is an efficient method to allow farmers to interact with each other in a meaningful way without leaving their farm. The use of high definition video conferencing enhanced the interaction considerably. There have been many lessons learned from this challenging venture, as well as many successful communication strategies to share.

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Anaerobic Digester Operator Discussion Group

  1. 1. FARMER DISCUSSION GROUPSFARMER DISCUSSION GROUPSAD VIRTUAL GROUPAD VIRTUAL GROUPImprove farm profitability.Improve farm profitability.Improve quality of life.Improve quality of life.
  2. 2. Farmer Discussion GroupsFarmer Discussion GroupsSmall Groups.Small Groups.Commonality.Commonality.Self Directed.Self Directed.Emphasis on farmers’ knowledge.Emphasis on farmers’ knowledge.Well facilitated.Well facilitated.
  3. 3. Why Discussion GroupsWhy Discussion GroupsFarmers learn from other farmers.Farmers learn from other farmers.Place a high value on information fromPlace a high value on information fromother farmers.other farmers.New ideas and perspectives.New ideas and perspectives.Challenge current thinking.Challenge current thinking.Big picture.Big picture.Networks and support.Networks and support.
  4. 4. Why Virtual?Why Virtual?Eliminate travelEliminate travelVideo enhances discussion beyondVideo enhances discussion beyondconference call.conference call.Discussion group-not webinar.Discussion group-not webinar.
  5. 5. NY AD GroupNY AD Group20 farms-10 participate20 farms-10 participate3-4 meetings/year3-4 meetings/year1-1.5 hours long1-1.5 hours longFormat-predetermined topic then openFormat-predetermined topic then opendiscussiondiscussionRecord meeting for participantsRecord meeting for participantsFacilitators-Jenny Pronto and KathyFacilitators-Jenny Pronto and KathyBarrett, CornellBarrett, Cornell
  6. 6. ConsiderationsConsiderationsConnection is KeyConnection is KeyTechnology-familiarize facilitators andTechnology-familiarize facilitators practice using serviceFacilitator practice using serviceTwo facilitators recommendedTwo facilitators recommendedTechnology glitches-farmers are forgivingTechnology glitches-farmers are forgivingListservListserv
  7. 7. Facilitators roleFacilitators rolePre meeting arrangements.Pre meeting arrangements.Keep discussion on topic and on time.Keep discussion on topic and on time.Engage in Active Listening.Engage in Active Listening.Ask open ended questions.Ask open ended questions.Manage group dynamics.Manage group dynamics.Follow up for future meeting.Follow up for future meeting.
  8. 8. How to Start a GroupHow to Start a GroupIdentify commonality-anaerobic digesterIdentify commonality-anaerobic digesterTalk to key farmer (s) gauge interestTalk to key farmer (s) gauge interestOpen or closed group?Open or closed group?Contact other potential members.Contact other potential members.Explain what a discussion group is.Explain what a discussion group is.First meeting-set ground rules i.e.First meeting-set ground rules i.e.confidentiality, respect for divergentconfidentiality, respect for divergentopinionsopinions
  9. 9. Time CommitmentTime CommitmentGroup startup-10 hours-contactingGroup startup-10 hours-contactingfarmers, investigating services, practicefarmers, investigating services, practiceMaintaining the group: 2-3 hours onMaintaining the group: 2-3 hours onaverage per meetingaverage per meeting1.1. Technology implementationTechnology implementation2.2. Data collection and analysis accounts forData collection and analysis accounts fordifference in time needed.difference in time needed.
  10. 10. Relevance beyond DairyRelevance beyond DairyBasics applyBasics applyregardless ofregardless ofcommodity.commodity.Farmers learning fromFarmers learning fromeach other is a soundeach other is a soundpremise.premise.Marketing groups,Marketing groups,agribusiness groups.agribusiness groups.