photo of UNH Graduate School alum Jordan Bronner

Leading the Way in Compost Management

UNH research is helping farmers increase the efficiency of their compost management

At UNH’s Organic Dairy Research Farm, UNH researchers, including Dissertation Year Fellowship (DYF) recipient, Matt Smith, have launched an innovative composting program that provides a high-quality compost product and captures the heat energy for use elsewhere on the farm.

Matt Smith’s research on UNH's organic dairy research farm is helping to lead the way in an efficient new composting program.

“Recovering heat from the composting process is an understudied and underpublicized method of waste management,” Smith '08 '10G '16G explained. “My goal is to help bring compost heat recovery technologies to the mainstream public through research and extension.”

Smith worked under his advisor Professor John Abner and graduated from UNH in 2016 with a PhD in Natural Resources and Earth Systems Science; he is now a research scientist who manages UNH’s Heat Recovery Composting Facility at the UNH Organic Dairy Farm in Lee, New Hampshire.

He explained that his primary role includes conducting research on how to increase the heat production, recovery, and utilization rate from the composting process. He also helps farmers and waste management professionals who are interested in this particular technology.

"The most surprising aspect of my research relates to the self-funded research on compost heat recovery technologies that farmers are conducting," Smith said. "The New England region seems to be the global hub for this type of farmer-driven research. This makes my work incredibly enjoyable, as I get to visit their farms and work collaboratively with them in this growing field of waste management."

During his academic career at UNH, Smith was a UNH Presidential Scholar and a 2014 finalist in the New Hampshire Social Venture Innovation Challenge. He was also a 2015-2016 Dissertation Year Fellowship (DYF) recipient; the fellowships are awarded to doctoral students in their final year of candidacy and include fee waivers and a stipend.

Smith credits the DYF toward his success in his final year of graduate school.

“The DYF was incredibly helpful, as it allowed me to focus on completing my dissertation without having to worry about funding,” Smith said. “Reducing stress during the final year of writing is always a good thing.”

—Author Kristen Melamed

To learn more about the Matt and the research being conducted at UNH's Organic Dairy Research Farm, watch the video Bye Waste, Hello Warmth published by UNH Today.