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On-farm AD


espite the recent global economic upturn, many of Britain’s farmers are struggling to remain profitable. Victims of supermarket price wars, rising energy bills and volatile commodity markets, they’re also under pressure to reduce high levels of greenhouse gas emissions. One result is that, for the first time in living memory, there are fewer than 10,000 dairy farmers in the UK, less than half the total in 2002. In contrast, Britain’s AD sector is booming – in the past five years, it has grown by 622 per cent (outside of the water sector), increasing by 111 per cent last year alone. In particular, we have seen a spike in the number of agricultural plants coming on stream, with 75 new on-farm plants commissioned in 2014, most at below 500 kW capacity. These AD plants are helping to keep farmers farming.


AD can bring multiple benefits to UK farming. Processing organic farm waste through an on-site AD plant not only reduces the harmful emissions released into the atmosphere, it also generates biogas that can be converted into electricity, heat or biomethane, as well as producing a biofertiliser (digestate) rich in critical nutrients such as nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus. The cultivation of energy crops such as maize and rye as part of an agricultural rotation also complements farming – not only are they excellent AD feedstocks, they can improve soil quality, reduce the need for pesticides and herbicides and increase subsequent food crop yields, too. Little wonder that so many farmers are waking up to the potential of AD.

Stephen Temple and his 170 kW AD plant at his farm in north Norfolk

Farmers at the sharp end Stephen Temple is Director of JF Temple & Son Ltd and runs Copys Green Farm, a 550 acre mixed dairy and arable farm in north Norfolk. Stephen has been successfully operating his 170 kW plant for a number of years. “The AD plant takes slurry from our 100 milking cows, whey from our cheesemaking, lower quality maize silage (we leave the best for the cows), energy beet and wholecrop cereals,” explains Stephen. “We utilise as much of the heat from the CHP as possible, for grain drying, dairy hot water, cheesemaking process heat, heating the farmhouse and three farm cottages, and warm drinking water for the cows. There is a considerable return from the sale of electricity, savings made by not having to buy it in, and reduced fertiliser costs and improved fertility and value of our farmland. The environment benefits too, particularly as we are reducing the pollution potential of our livestock manure.”

For Duncan Worth of Worth Farms and QV Foods in Lincolnshire, becoming energy self-sufficient is just one of the advantages of his on-farm AD plant: “Our 1.4 MW Tamar Energy facility uses waste from our packing and processing operations, vegetable food waste from other sources, and 8,000 tpa of maize, which is grown on 170ha of land unsuitable for potato production,” he explains. “As a fairly remote farm site with relatively weak infrastructure,

Duncan Worth’s farm is home to a 1.4 MW Tamar Energy AD facility, which processes waste from QV Foods’ packing and processing operations, vegetable food waste, and 8,000 tpa of maize



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