Advancing the Anaerobic Digestion Value Chain

C-CHANGE, the Consortium for Cultivating Human And Naturally reGenerative Enterprises, has received a one-year grant from the Walton Family Foundation to advance an innovative value chain to address challenges facing U.S. Corn Belt. The value chain is based on the production of renewable natural gas (RNG) and associated bioproducts through the anaerobic digestion of herbaceous biomass combined with manure.

A grant from the Walton Foundation will allow C-CHANGE researchers to extend the value chain of renewable natural gas (RNG) produced by anaerobic digestion to municipalities.
“There’s a lot of momentum around anaerobic digestion as keystone technology within a circular economy and RNG as a renewable fuel. This new grant will allow us to expand beyond our scope beyond the agricultural sector to include municipalities,” said Lisa Schulte Moore, C-CHANGE director and professor of natural resource ecology and management at Iowa State University.

Leveraging the Value Chain

In anaerobic digestion (AD), microorganisms break down organic substances in the absence of oxygen. One end product is biogas, which can be processed into RNG. Since the EPA approval in 2014, RNG has accounted for more than 97 percent of the one billion gallon equivalents of cellulosic biofuels produced in the US.

The value chain leverages existing AD technology associated with municipalities and farms as well as demand for RNG. It expands the chain to incorporate cover crops and perennial crops to meet climate resilience and water quality goals. C-CHANGE is working to reduce economies of scale associated with the technology and develop additional bioproducts to support rural economic development.

The new project is part of a larger effort to meet these goals. It will aim to strengthen partnerships through improved coordination and information dissemination among the agricultural community and municipalities. The project will also evaluate alternative pathways to improve climate resilience, water quality, and economic vitality through collaboration among municipalities and farmers.

Mark Mba Wright, associate professor of mechanical engineering at Iowa State and co-investigator on the grant said, “We have a tremendous opportunity to provide communities with a roadmap to use their local resources for generating clean energy, improving air and water quality, and invigorating their local economies.”

Over the last 18 months, C-CHANGE has established infrastructure and developed partnerships toward these outcomes. More than 55 organizations have provided input, helped refine scope and priorities, and enlisted to support demonstrations, deployment, and scale up.

About the Walton Family Foundation

The Walton Family Foundation is, at its core, a family-led foundation. Three generations of the descendants of founders, Sam and Helen Walton, and their spouses, work together to lead the foundation and create access to opportunity for people and communities. It works in three areas: improving K-12 education, protecting rivers and oceans and the communities they support, and investing in its home region of Northwest Arkansas and the Arkansas-Mississippi Delta. To learn more, visit and follow it on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.


C-CHANGE, collaborating institutions work to build science-based partnerships for meeting 21st century challenges and opportunities in agriculture, technology, and innovation. Partnerships are needed to help society meet the goal of delivering abundant, affordable, and safe food to 10 billion people without compromising the Earth’s supportive capacity in the long term. C-CHANGE recently received a $10 million grant from the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture.