New uses for waste

Shepparton News - Country News - - EUROA SHOW 2018 -

With surg­ing elec­tric­ity prices, in­ten­sive agri­cul­tural in­dus­tries are look­ing for newer and smarter tech­nolo­gies to de­ploy on farm.

It’s a prob­lem 2016 Nuffield scholar Ben Edser recog­nises well, given his role as a busi­ness de­vel­op­ment man­ager of an in­vest­ment com­pany that man­ages a broiler poul­try en­ter­prise, which pro­duces about 10 mil­lion broiler meat chick­ens each year in South Aus­tralia.

As part of the busi­ness’ sus­tain­abil­ity ini­tia­tives, about 45 000 kg of poul­try waste is pro­cessed and com­posted for use across a range of hor­ti­cul­tural in­dus­tries.

The com­pany also has 700 kw of so­lar power across the farm.

With sup­port from AgriFu­tures Aus­tralia, Mr Edser un­der­took a Nuffield Schol­ar­ship to re­search whether poul­try or other in­ten­sive live­stock waste could be used as an al­ter­na­tive en­ergy and rev­enue stream for farm busi­nesses, and as a mech­a­nism to re­duce op­er­a­tional costs on farm.

‘‘In­ten­sive agri­cul­tural in­dus­tries have ex­pe­ri­enced es­ca­lat­ing elec­tric­ity and gas costs over the past 10 years, and for broiler poul­try busi­nesses, look­ing at re­new­ables is go­ing to be a key fo­cus in the fu­ture as busi­nesses strive for ef­fi­ciency and lower pro­duc­tion costs,’’ he said.

‘‘For most poul­try busi­nesses, around 75 per cent of their op­er­at­ing costs fall into four key ar­eas — labour, elec­tric­ity, gas and bed­ding.

‘‘If pro­duc­ers can tackle one or more of those ar­eas, they can cer­tainly gain a com­pet­i­tive edge.’’

Through­out his two-year study, Mr Edser trav­elled across the world — in­clud­ing to China, In­dia, Europe, the United King­dom and the United States.

His fi­nal re­port looks at key re­new­able en­ergy tech­nolo­gies, such as anaer­o­bic di­ges­tion and so­lar, in in­ten­sive poul­try pro­duc­tion.

‘‘I was most in­ter­ested in anaer­o­bic di­ges­tion, which is a tech­nol­ogy that can 2016 Nuffield scholar Ben Edser is look­ing for new tech­nolo­gies to bat­tle in­creas­ing power prices. be used to re­cover en­ergy from or­ganic waste,’’ he said.

‘‘I dis­cov­ered that feed­stock with high chicken ma­nure con­tent was tech­ni­cally and op­er­a­tionally pos­si­ble, and was suc­cess­fully proven by two com­pa­nies in Den­mark and the United States.’’

In his fi­nal re­port Mr Edser ex­plored op­por­tu­ni­ties to con­vert waste into en­ergy, and the fea­si­bil­ity of tai­lor­ing how re­new­ables such as so­lar can be used in the broiler poul­try in­dus­try.

‘‘In my opin­ion, these greener en­er­gies not only off­set costs, they have far reach­ing ben­e­fits for pro­duc­ers, the sup­ply chain, pol­i­cy­mak­ers, the wider com­mu­nity and the en­vi­ron­ment.’’

Waste not, want not . . .

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