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On-farm AD Paying attention to clamp design can stop

crop operators wasting up to 25 per cent of the energy from their siled crops

Sustainable operations The need to operate sustainably is becoming increasingly important for Britain’s supermarkets, and many are actively encouraging their growers to adopt sustainable practices. “We know the vital importance of ensuring we do the right thing and that we tread lightly, and this is built into our CSR strategy; the Waitrose way,” explains Laura Strangeway, Manager, Sustainability and Ethical Sourcing, for Waitrose. “These are our values and we share our aspirations with our suppliers. In addition, our suppliers know that sustainable operations gain enhanced commercial benefits, too – lean operations that use less energy, consume less water, and generate less waste have lower operational costs and can therefore be more profitable for the long term. An increasing number of Waitrose farmers and growers recognise the opportunities that on-site AD can offer by turning unavoidable production waste, with a costly disposal price tag, into an AD feedstock. To be sustainable is more often than not win-win.”

Demonstrating sustainability is important to government too, and farmers using energy crops must also ensure that they are compliant with bioenergy sustainability criteria if they are to continue receiving RHI and RO payments,

Grown responsibly, crops for AD can complement existing farming practices

with FITs expected to follow suit. And if we are to avoid ‘food versus fuel’ criticisms and ensure that AD continues to complement existing farming practices, it is vital that farmers follow ADBA’s Crop Best Practice guidance, which contains valuable guidelines on how to ensure that crops for AD do not harm our environment.

Do your homework By making the most of a variety of agricultural feedstocks – from energy crops and vegetable outgrades, to manure and slurries – it’s clear that AD is providing a valuable diversification option for farming businesses of all types and sizes right across the UK. However, an AD operation requires careful research and planning, a high level of technical competence and strict adherence to health and safety regulations if it is to become a success.

The ‘Waitrose Way’ strategy ensures the supermarket keeps sustainability at its heart

While Stephen Temple is now reaping the benefits brought by his on-farm AD enterprise, he is keen to point out that it’s been a steep learning curve: “I would advise any farmer considering AD to talk to as many operators with similar sized plants and similar feedstock as possible before making a commitment. Ensure the plant is designed for ease of maintenance and access to all powered machinery; and adopt a plant design that could accommodate the worst possible failure – for example, could it cope if the tank or pipework (above or below ground) failed? Could the plant manage flammable and toxic gas leaks?”

The importance of training Stephen’s advice is something which every would-be operator should heed, says Terence Brownhill, Business Development Manager of PROjEN and Chair of ADBA’s Training, Safety and Environmental Management Group. “Half of all AD plant failures are due to operator error: things such as overfilling the digester, shock-loading the plant, or failing to effectively monitor the biology. The other half are due to poor design or build: cutting corners by carrying out maintenance for which you are not qualified, or failing to install gas detection systems, for example. Farmers should spend time evaluating the operational characteristics of the plant they are considering. Read ADBA’s Practical Guide to AD; find out if the local agricultural college has an AD-related training course; ensure that the technology provider delivers both pre- and post-commissioning training; spend time on similar plants to gain operating experience and

Waitrose believes that sustainable operations reap enhanced commercial benefits Continued>> JUNE 2015 | AD & BIORESOURCES NEWS 11

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