With large areas of the UK officially declared to be in drought due to the unprecedented heatwave which has broken all records, protecting water resources has never been more important. GEA’s technology for dewatering slurry is playing a key role in an innovative project in Wales designed to limit the risk of pollution and make better use of a valuable source of nutrients for farm land.
The Tywi Farm Nutrient Partnership (TFNP), which is based at Coleg Sir Gâr, Gelli Aur Farm, was launched in 2020 to develop self-contained manure treatment systems. Partners contribute their area of knowledge with the joint aim of significantly reducing the risk of air and water pollution by improving slurry management capabilities.
GEA, the international industrial technology group, was approached to supply an environmental sludge decanter pro line system. Reducing the volume of slurry for disposal is good for the environment and also reduces carbon footprints.
Aligning the GEA equipment with that of other TFNP partners provides a complete nutrient management package, creating a farm-based system which can separate the nutrients from the manure into easier to manage segments. The result is a reduction in storage and better control of nutrients applied to land, reducing the reliance on transporting waste slurry.
Supported by the Welsh Government, Natural Resources Wales and Welsh Water, among others, TFNP has developed constructed wetlands, plant outcome-led adaptions and precision farming equipment. This is to maximise the potential recirculation and reuse of the water and the nutrients.
Chris Clarke, Head of Sales Separation at GEA UK, says the project is attracting worldwide attention. “Manure issues and treatment requirements have no boundaries. Farms around the world are facing the same problems with nutrient management, over spreading and an increase in herd sizes. The larger farms have a larger problem but the solution is the same, just on a different scale.”
As farms increase in size and legislation gets tighter, it will become harder to handle slurry. Land bank is decreasing because of population growth. For agriculture to be sustainable innovative ideas are needed to deal with what is sometimes seen as a waste product. Fertiliser, fuel and energy price increases only make it more viable to treat slurry. The nutrients have value and transporting slurry long distances to spread can no longer be an economic option.
Chris Clarke added: “GEA has a global base of knowledge in this area. We have a farm technologies division which handles everything from feeding to milking to manure handling. We are now joining forces to aid in better separation efficiencies with technology typically used in the waste water market.”
Zoe Henderson, NRW Board Member and Chair of the Wales Land Management Forum, concluded: “The management of slurry is becoming an ever-increasing issue for farmers and the environment; it is a vital resource of nutrients to the land but can also be very toxic to our waters. The work undertaken by the Tywi Farm Nutrient Partnership at Gelli Aur is fundamental to provide research into various technologies, and explore innovative solutions to deliver against the nature and climate emergency we are facing not only in Wales but globally.
“The project at Gelli Aur college is not just leading the way forward for the agricultural industry in Wales, but across the world on slurry management and precision farming. All the partners have a key role to play in moving forward this technology to be implemented on farms, in order to utilise the nutrients, spread more accurately and make efficient use of the water. NRW are proud to be part of this innovative and exciting work and want to continue working in partnership with the group, along with the agricultural sector, to improve the sustainable management of natural resources in Wales.”
John Owen the TFNP Project Manager added that he is very happy with the project outcomes: “The cooperation between all of the partners has really proved its worth, the current outcome of which will be available for all to see at the project open day to be held on 15th September, all interested parties welcome.”
TFNP’s solution is not only confined to cows. Manure behaves very similarly to digestates from biogas plants and of course other animal slurries such as pig manure. The system can be replicated and GEA is already in discussion with clients about this. The biogas industry is facing the same issue as farmers with land spreading.
GEA is hoping to see the project through to its conclusion. It’s something the company is proud to support across the board especially in an area which has such big potential to make a difference. This is a huge benefit to both GEA and the learning party as they complement each other with global knowledge and local requirements.