Device provides decomposition of manure in an odorless manner

Farm Forum

Many attempts have been made to find ways to quickly decompose manure in an odorless manner.

An engineering firm in Elk Point, in the southeast corner of South Dakota near Iowa and Nebraska, believes it has an answer for producers. The company is Ries Engineering, owned by John Ries who grew up near Groton.

“Most people can understand the ‘compost pile’ concept,” Ries said. “That is what we do, except we do all the stirring in a pond!”

Ries has submitted several patents related to the equipment he designs. One of those involves PondLift, which he says can maximize farm profits and fix manure problems. The aeration equipment converts manure storage sites into aerobic treatment facilities.

“About 9 years ago a client installed equipment on their pond,” Ries said. “During the next few months I saw the equipment change the pond. It became ‘water’ instead of manure. And odor was really reduced. It was truly unbelievable.”

Ries realized the importance of the process and became associated with the group selling the equipment. Eight years later, after lots of study, presentations and discussions, it became clear that the existing technology hit a brick wall. There was a need for a fresh design to fix the recurring equipment problems. Around Thanksgiving of 2013, Ries had a prototype in hand, soon to be Patent Pending on several design concepts. PondLift LLC was born. PondLift offers two devices: PLifts go onto ponds/lagoons, and SmLifts go into barn basement pits.

The previous equipment weighed more than 500 lbs. Ries said PLifts weigh less than 70 lbs. and don’t need heavy equipment for handling. Built with heavy duty, 1.5 hp motors, they are usually operated at the 600-watt speed. They are built to last a very long time. SmLifts are a smaller version without a stand and buoy, so they weigh even less and service pitted barns.

The spring and summer of 2014 allowed several test sites to be used as a “proving area” for the PLifts to show they work better than the previous equipment. The tests proved successful during a $1.14 million 3-year study funded by the USDA-NRCS Air Quality and Atmospheric Change Team.

Ries said the installations also proved the high performance/low energy usage relationship. The marketing process was agreeable and the pricing was acceptable to farm/industrial site owners. Improvements from previous equipment include: reorientation of buoy/motor/propeller to allow lighter weight and higher performance, elimination of material wrapping on the prop, and increased reliability. Increased performance is obvious when witnessing the extreme amount of super-critical water flow near the buoy, which helps assure the devices hold sufficient areas clear/open even during the coldest of weather.

Ries explains that aerobic bacteria break down the manure very quickly and fully, but only when they have sufficient oxygen supplied.

PondLift does two things simultaneously, Ries says. It lifts the bottom stuff to the surface, and stretches it out across the surface to let that oxygen easily get to the water and microbes. The continuous lifting effectively homogenizes the pond effluent, making an aerobic treatment pond. Because the entire pond has some oxygenation, it becomes a hostile environment for anaerobic bacteria, so they can’t really thrive. Then the formation of methane, oxides, ammonia, etc. (the stinky part of manure) can’t happen. All solids are decomposed, so no agitation of the solids is ever required, and nitrogen and other nutrients are retained.

Ries explains further benefits. The nitrogen within the manure is converted and held as an ammonium ion, well-known for being non-toxic to fish and being able to be absorbed directly into the plant leaves. In a perfect world, the pond nutrients are held and distributed to growing crops during the seed-forming period, where it is proven to provide a 70% yield increase. Of course, this is only really practical with irrigation equipment, but many farmers are seeing that distributing manure nutrients in that manner is a cost effective solution, even if they don’t have irrigation.

Ries says this type of growth is only available if the pond is converted first. Aerobic treatment is the thing that opens all other doors to intelligent manure handling. Decompose and store it, and it is all 100% available the first year.

Ries uses modern technology for PondLift’s business. The company will be using crowdfunding to service all financial needs. More Information is available at

Ries claims, “PondLift will be improving the world, one farm at a time.”