Fellows in the News

The air in San Sebastián Tepalcatepec, a farming community in the south-central Mexican state of Puebla, is hot and dry and, frankly, reeks. Alexander Eaton rolls down the window of his pickup truck and inhales. “This smells like opportunity,” he tells Quartz with a grin.

A few corn fields and cement grocery stores down the road, we pull into the driveway of a small dairy farm. A handful of young children chase each other through the turquoise-painted courtyard, laughing and shrieking. Miguel Rodriguez, the farm’s owner, greets us at the gate and shows us around his property—stalls of cattle chewing on hay, hens milling around a chicken coop, a pot of tomatoes on the kitchen stove, an indoor/outdoor shower, some modest personal living spaces.

A hulking black, bag-like contraption sits in the backyard. It’s a biodigester that Eaton’s company, Sistema Biobolsa, recently installed on the property. Each day, Rodriguez and his farmworkers fill it with cow manure and other waste produced by the animals on his farm. The biodigester then acts as an extension of the animals’ stomachs, breaking the feces down into two substances: biogas, which Rodriguez uses to heat his stove and his water supply, and a nutrient-rich liquid fertilizer he uses to feed his crops.

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