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PISGAH, MISSOURI - A mid-Missouri turkey farmer is now heating 13,000 young turkeys on his farm using a much different approach than the standard method of propane heat.

Chris Holliday, owner of Holliday Investments, partnered with University of Missouri Engineer Shawn Xu to install a geothermal heating and cooling system Xu developed for agriculture.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, geothermal is a clean and renewable energy source that uses the constant heat underneath the ground. Pipes looped underground absorb this heat and carry heated water to heating pumps above-ground, which then pump heat into the turkey barn.

Holliday said he wanted to try it because propane costs are unpredictable.

"Energy costs is a problem for us. When propane doubles in price it's hard on us," Holliday said. "When it stays more consistant it's better for us, you know, you can plan for the year what your costs are going to be."

The U.S. Department of Energy under the American Recovery and Investment Act funded 75 percent of the project and Holliday spent about $120,000 of his own money to install the system.

Xu said this system is less expensive to install than most geothermal systems, which require extensive drilling to place the pipes verically underground. With Xu's system, however, pipes are buried horizontally seven feet underground, and then again five feet underground.

Now that it has been running for two months, Xu said the data already shows the system is saving energy.

"We anticipated to reduce the cost by 50 percent and already the operation data in the past month has shown that, that we can reach that goal," Xu said.

Heating is important for large turkey operations like Holliday's because the younger birds must be kept very warm.

"We have to keep it 91-92 degrees when they're small babies to keep them living like their mother. It needs to be warm and then it slowly ramps down as they grow feathers and get bigger," Holliday said.

Holliday spends about $20,000 total each year on propane. With Xu's estimation, that cost will drop to $10,000 per year.

Holliday and Xu hope this will encourage other farmers to go geothermal.

"If you can keep your price steady, figure out a new way to deliver heat into the barn to help the environment and save money, I think that's good," Holliday said.

Xu said the same system is ideal for other types of farms and even processing facilities.

"Right now we're pretty much focused on the poultry application, but we believe the same technology can find an opportunity in other farming areas like hog farms."