Machines at Hermiston’s Lamb-Weston potato processing facility clank noisily as they convert used processing water into liquid fertilizer. A pond-like clarifier filters goop out of the water as pumps send 2,000 gallons per minute to Madison Farms via underground pipes. As much as half of the nitrogen the farm uses to fertilize crops comes from this nutrient-rich water, according to owner Jake Madison.
In 2001, OSU helped bring together growers, processors, and government officials to discuss how businesses could change wastewater from an environmental liability to a valuable resource. Today, the consortium analyzes wastewater to determine nutrient levels and test water quality, with the help of OSU’s Horneck. “I’m the science expert of the group,” he said. “If there are questions about soils, how water moves, how nitrogen transfers in the soil, or when water is applied in the winter, I’m the guy who answers them.”