Michigan dairy farmers and a Canadian distillery plan to transform milk into a $41.1 million investment in biofuels.
The Michigan Milk Producers Association, a farmer-owned cooperative of more than 1,000 dairy farmers with two processing plants in the state, created a joint venture with Dairy Distillery, of Ontario, which produces a milk-based vodka called Vodkow.
The venture plans to add onto a 30,000-square-foot facility in southwestern Michigan so it can process a byproduct called milk permeate into 2.2 million gallons of ethanol annually for use in cars and trucks starting in 2025, Crain's Detroit Business reported. That amount of ethanol, when blended with gasoline, can offset 14,500 metric tons of carbon a year.
By using technology developed by Dairy Distillery, which began turning milk permeate into vodka in 2018 and into hand sanitizer during the COVID-19 pandemic, Michigan dairy farmers hope to create more value for the milk being processed from their cows.
"There's only so much vodka people can drink, and there's so much of this stuff out there," Dairy Distillery founder Omid McDonald told TV station WOOD in Grand Rapids, Mich. "We said, 'Well, what other high-volume uses are out there?' And that's when we started looking at biofuel."
The milk byproduct will be piped directly from the milk processing plant into an 8,500-square-foot ethanol plant, where it will be fermented using Dairy Distillery technology to produce ethanol. The ethanol will then be processed to remove any remaining water.