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Melissa VanOrnum

As Vice President of Marketing for DVO Inc., Melissa VanOrnum has the sometimes difficult job of explaining what an anaerobic digester is—basically the equivalent of a big cow stomach that converts waste to biogas.

Melissa’s father started the Chilton, Wisconsin-based company after growing up milking cows on his father’s dairy farm. Melissa’s mother is the company accountant, her husband does research and development, her brother is an engineer and her sister-in-law is the company attorney, but Melissa says all of DVO’s employees feel like family.

Day to day, Melissa promotes the benefits of anaerobic digester systems: from producing renewable energy to power and heat homes, to creating solid byproducts that can be used for animal bedding (cows produce more milk when they’re laying down and comfortable!) and reducing carbon and methane emissions. The U.S. lags behind countries like Germany, which operates nearly 7,000 large-scale digesters, but the technology is becoming more widely adopted stateside thanks to the hard work of people like Melissa.

“The biggest barrier is that a lot of people just don’t know what an anaerobic digester is and the numerous environmental benefits it offers,” said Melissa. “That’s what I’m working to change.”

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