During our “One Mile Deep – Sibang Kaja” learning period, we went on a little adventure to see what was happening around the village. Sitting in the back of the Kul Kul Farm truck, the Earth Bound team set off to a Biogas farm just around the corner from Green School. We smelt the cows before we saw them, but already it was intriguing to see what exactly the farm is for. Pak Orin, the founder of Kul Kul Farms, translated for us as Pak Nyoman explained that it was a biogas farm. With just the word ‘bio’ I instantly began thinking if we could incorporate this at Green School with our Bio Bus program, without knowing a thing about it. Pak Nyoman told us that he uses the cows for their poo, urine and farts, to make compost and biogas. The farmers take the biogas that is produced, and it’s used to power the farm and the neighbouring compound, while using the compost for the banana farm down the road. We were showed the “digester” (the name for the biogas pump) and told how the biogas is used, and where it is used. And despite it being hard to concentrate due to the manure smell, and my not-so-huge love for science, I actually found the process interesting and decided to explore it more.
If you aren’t familiar with biogas, which I wasn’t before going to the farm, it is the end product of a process using the methane released from cow’s poo and pee, which can then be used as a fuel. It is a clean and renewable energy that is made from organic matter, in this case cow pee and poo. It is then fermented, heated up, thus creating power. Of course the process is a lot more scientific and complicated than that, but that’s the gist of it. In Pak Nyoman’s farm, he has around 20 cows that are all apart of this process. He showed us the digester, and gave us a visual run through of how it worked, what went where, and where it ends up, at one point even taking his lighter and opening the tiny latch where the gas gets let out (which was scary because it’s highly flammable and it also smells horrible.)
The great thing about this farm is that it is powered on the biogas, as well as being sent to the compound next door to power their kitchen. We went to have a look, and it really did work! It was interesting because in the kitchen, despite it being really small, they had ‘three generations’ of stoves all in the one room; from a fire stove using wood and coal, to the gas stove which used the biogas. During my research,I found a lot of international communities also using biogas. Many examples weren’t just using cow manure, but human waste. We asked Pak Orin if we could use the composting toilets at Green School, he told us that it was totally possible, but also pointed out that there were health risks involved, and we would probably need to consult some professionals. There have been people using pee to power their mobile phones, and the one that stood out to me the most, was in Bristol (UK) where the local bus is powered by biogas, which got me thinking, we could totally use this for Bio Bus and at Green School.
Bio Bus is powered by biofuel that is made from used cooking oil that we collect, and while “powered by used cooking oil” is kind of the catch phrase and is more or less the basis of the project, it would be interesting if we could test run the buses with biogas. We could talk to Pak Nyoman about a partnership, and although it could take time to do, the thought is really exciting! Not to mention having the “gas station” (the biogas farm) just around the corner from Green School. The biogas bus in Bristol is a huge bus, with double the amount of seats, but with just one tank of biogas, it can travel up to 300kms (186 miles), fuelled by the annual waste of around five people. I’m not entirely sure how much biogas is being made at the farm, but I do remember Orin telling us that Pak Nyoman has idea’s of expanding the farm. Even if the Bio Bus did want to stick with using biofuel to power the buses, we could create a curriculum, with the help of the GS science teachers, about the science behind biogas and whether it would work or not.
In my research of biogas, and my previous love for the Bio Bus, I became very excited about this concept, and how we could take it further at Green School – even more surprisingly with my detest for science. From just a simple trip to a biogas farm in the back of a truck (with no seat belts – sorry mum), and exploring Sibang Kaja and our community even more, it’s clear that there are so many things that we can learn from our community and take into action. I’m eager to see where this goes, and working more with Pak Nyoman.