FrieslandCampina, Lely and Rabobank launch nitrogen pilot

By Katy Askew

- Last updated on GMT

Lely Sphere reduces nitrogen emissions / Pic: FrieslandCampina
Lely Sphere reduces nitrogen emissions / Pic: FrieslandCampina

Related tags Frieslandcampina Nitrogen

FrieslandCampina is working alongside Rabobank and ag tech company Lely on a pilot project that aims to cut nitrogen emissions on dairy farms.

The initiative will see the installation of 93 Lely Spheres, that can reduce nitrogen emissions by up to 70% in the barn of a dairy farm.

What is a Lely Sphere?

The Lely Sphere is a circular barn system that separates solid manure and urine, converting nitrogen emissions into fertilizer. This can then be re-used by the farmer for precision fertilization.

The innovation closes the mineral cycle on farm and reduces the use of artificial fertilizers. Recent scientific reports show that with the Lely Sphere, ammonia emissions are reduced by up to 70% in the barn, the companies said.

The pilot aims to make the Lely Spheres accessible for farmers. FrieslandCampina is providing a financial contribution to support instillation, Rabobank is offering a finance package including an interest rate rebate and grace period, and Lely is supplying its system at a discount to participating farmers.

An alternative to Dutch nitrogen plans?

The Dutch government has targeted a 50% reduction in total nitrogen emissions by 2030, with a €25bn plan to reduce livestock numbers in the country. The policy includes measures to buy farmers out and support a transition from intensive to extensive systems. It is expected that these efforts will reduce total livestock numbers in the Netherlands by around one-third.

However, the policy has sparked a massive backlash from farmers who are staging protests across the country, which currently has the highest livestock density in Europe.

For FrieslandCampina CEO Hein Schumacher, investment in nitrogen reducing technology on farm presents an alterative path out of the nitrogen crisis. “With the Lely Sphere we achieve an immediate and proven nitrogen reduction. We believe that this is a more sustainable and future-proof solution for the Netherlands than an expensive buy-out scheme,”​ he explained. “With this we want to encourage the government to take on this approach and invest in farmers who want to make their farm management more sustainable.”

Lely CEO André van Troost agreed that it is important to offer ‘alternative’ solutions to the national nitrogen challenge. “Instead of reducing livestock and compensating dairy farmers for this, we believe in investing in research and technical innovations to stimulate circular livestock farming and make agriculture more sustainable,”​ he suggested.

The first Lely Spheres will be installed after the summer. Early in the new year, the results of the pilot will be evaluated to discuss follow-up steps.

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