Arla Foods launches UK Innovation Farm

Arla Foods on-farm R&D facility was formally launched last week, showcasing a range of trials that are testing the tech of the future.

The Arla UK 360 ‘Innovation Farm’ near Aylesbury is run by the Dyson family and serves as a central hub to host or participate in the cutting-edge trials Arla is undertaking to lead the dairy agenda, to assess the risk, costs and benefits before sharing this with Arla farmers.

The farm will also be used as an education centre for Arla to share its learnings with other Arla members, foodservice and retail customers and industry stakeholders.

The latest Arla UK 360 trial at the farm sees European agricultural technology business, N2 Applied, carrying out its first large-scale commercial trial of a breakthrough technology that minimises harmful emissions and enriches the nutrient content of slurry.

Using a scientific technique that applies just air and electricity to the liquid waste material, the N2 Unit can significantly reduce the harmful emissions caused by slurry production in the UK.

It does this by fixing nitrogen from the air and absorbing it into the slurry. As a result, methane and ammonia is essentially trapped within the slurry, reducing the amount of ammonia and methane released into the air.

The project will assess how practical it is for the technology to be adopted as part of the ongoing daily practice of running a farm.

‘Profound implications’

“This technology has potentially profound implications for the UK’s dairy food sector,” said Carl Hansson, CEO, N2 Applied.

The ability to cut 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.

“We have high hopes for the trial, and thank both Arla Foods and the Dyson family for their collaboration in investigating the potential.

“We know that trials of the technology 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.

“Here, we are assessing how the Unit performs in reducing emissions when it is installed in a commercial dairy farm” he said.

‘2050 is a long way off’

“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”, explained Alice Swift, agriculture director, Arla Foods.

“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.”

Provisional N2 trials suggest the treated slurry may also benefit crop yields as a fertiliser due to its nitrogen content and Nitrogen Use Efficiency (NUE).

Therefore, the Arla UK 360 project is also undertaking three independently verified crop testing projects comparing crop performance using slurry that has been processed through the plasma reactor versus untreated slurry, with results expected later in the year.