London, UK: N2 Applied, the European agricultural technology business, today announced the UK’s first trial of a breakthrough technology that eliminates harmful emissions and enriches the nutrient content of livestock manure, offering a substantial step forward for the dairy food industry as it pursues net-zero targets.
The N2 Unit is at the centre of a European Union-funded trial taking place at international dairy company Arla Foods’ new Innovation Farm in Buckinghamshire, UK. Using a scientific technique that applies just air and electricity to slurry, the N2 Unit performs a plasma conversion that ‘locks in’ methane and ammonia to the liquid waste material, producing a sustainable fertiliser.
The trial is being undertaken as part of Arla’s leading farm standards programme, Arla UK 360. It will monitor ammonia emissions and assess the practicalities of this innovative technology within a commercial farm setting. It will aim to generate valuable information on what is needed in order to enable more farmers to be able to implement the equipment on farms to support the sustainability of their business amongst growing pressures on managing agricultural carbon footprints.
Earlier this year, Arla shared the output from the first year of its landmark Climate Check programme. As part of the insights generated, manure management was highlighted as one of the five main levers that will have a positive effect in supporting the farmer-owned co-operative’s commitment to a 30 per cent reduction of on-farm carbon emissions by 2030.
“2050 is a long way off, but to meet our goals of carbon net zero farming we need to start looking at technologies that can help us now,” said Alice Swift, Agriculture Director, Arla Foods UK. “Our Innovation Farm allows us to work with partners like N2 to investigate the feasibility of cutting-edge technology like this on our farmers’ behalf, to see what’s possible and what might be commercially feasible for our farms in the future. This trial shows there is indeed technology out there to help us meet our goals – but we need to find ways of making these work on a practical and affordable level on-farm, which is what this project will explore.”
As well as assessing the practicalities, treated slurry from the farm is being used for scientific crop trials that will assess how the treated material can help reduce on-farm emissions being released into the atmosphere via a reduced need for chemical fertiliser.
“This technology has profound implications for the UK’s dairy food sector. If N2 Units were adopted across the UK dairy herd today they could deliver 17 to 21 per cent of the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) emission reduction target for livestock.The ability to cut harmful slurry-based ammonia emissions offers a pathway to practical testing of methane emission reduction, and a giant leap towards the industry becoming net-zero and helping to tackle climate change,” said Carl Hansson, CEO, N2 Applied.
“We have high hopes for the trial, and thank Arla Foods for its collaboration in investigating the potential. While this is the first UK deployment on a farm, others elsewhere in Europe have seen ammonia and methane emissions being greatly reduced, Nitrogen Use Efficiency (NUE) increased and improvements in soil health and crop yield,” he said.
This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 101008819.
UK Government and NFU Targets
- To meet a 2050 net zero carbon target in the UK, the Committee on Climate Change recommended an annual reduction of 18.6 million tonnes CO2e from livestock. The National Farmers’ Union has set a target of 11.5 million tonnes CO2e per year by 2035.
- One N2 Unit working on a farm with 200 cows, can reduce and remove a total of 183 tonnes of CO2e per year. Adopted across the UK dairy herd, N2’s technology could reduce and remove 2.42 million tonnes CO2e per year – 13% of the Committee on Climate Change recommendation, and 21% of the NFU target.
- The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has estimated that between 10 and 12 per cent of all anthropogenic emissions derive from agriculture.