Nether Lethame Farm, in South Lanarkshire, Scotland, is an eco-farm that sells dairy products directly to the public in vending machines and from a snack van, having developed its business during successive COVID-19 lockdowns.
It is taking part in a two-year European Union-funded pilot using N2 Applied’s technology to process all manure from its Jersey cow herd into sustainable fertilizer, and monitoring how methane and ammonia emissions are eliminated. The farm uses a robot to collect excess manure from cow sheds for inclusion in the conversion process.
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 fertilizer.
As well as the project’s potential to achieve net zero emissions from slurry management and improve grassland yields, the farm is a growing business attracting daily customers - so the ability to eliminate slurry odors is seen as an attractive fringe benefit.
The pilot is the latest by N2 Applied into the practicalities of operating the technology within a commercial farm setting. It will generate information on what is needed to enable more farmers to implement the technology to support the sustainability of their businesses, against growing pressures on managing agricultural carbon footprints, and in particular suppressing methane emissions.
“We are a highly unusual farm in that we’re a start-up, so have had a clearer path to becoming fully sustainable from the outset. Since we took ownership at the end of 2018, we’ve grown a business that is the master of its own destiny in selling directly to the public via vending machines and a cafe, and we have had to adapt and accelerate our plans due to the impact of lockdowns,” said Alex Fleming, who owns and runs Nether Lethame Farm with his wife MaryAnn.
“The potential to make slurry management, which is such an environmental Achilles’ heel for the dairy sector, net zero can be a cornerstone of our sustainable farming business. We want to explore how best to achieve net zero emissions and make green technology the backbone of our growing business.”
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 the need for chemical fertilizer, and therefore further reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The farm currently has a small herd of 19 Jersey cows alongside around 300 chickens, producing milk, ice cream, milkshakes and eggs that are sold daily. There are further plans to both expand the herd and introduce new products such as yogurt.
“Technology that can cut methane and ammonia emissions to practically zero has profound implications for the UK’s dairy food sector and farms of many sizes. If N2 Units were adopted across the UK dairy herd today they could deliver 17 to 21% of the National Farmers’ Union efficiency and greenhouse gas emission reduction target. The Nether Lethame pilot is a shining example of commercial vision and ambition combining with science to pursue net zero goals and support a whole new consumer delivery model,” said Carl Hansson, CEO, N2 Applied.