Minimising the impact of waste on the environment

Water sustainability and agriculture

In recognition of water saving week, Agri-EPI Centre’s Membership and Events Manager, Annabelle Gardner, spoke with member Grant Leslie, Co-founder and Chief Operations Officer of SEM Energy, an environmentally conscious sustainability partner in waste and water effluent treatment.

SEM Offices

What does your company do?

We are an environmentally conscious sustainability partner in waste and water effluent treatment. Our team of scientists, engineers and technologists pioneer leading-edge technologies that process co-products from ‘waste’ streams and deliver innovative water treatment solutions.

Our goal is to:

  • Reduce waste
  • Maximise solid matter capture
  • Save on haulage, storage and logistics costs
  • Increase efficiencies
  • Shrink the carbon footprint

What is your company vision?

A waste-free, circular economy in the future, securing our planet’s health and wealth for generations to come. We aim to minimise the impact of waste on the environment and, where possible, create value from its co-product waste streams and ensure compliance with discharge legislation.

Can you provide a case-study or example of the work you currently undertake in agriculture?

On-site conversion of agricultural animal slurry into organic horticulture products:

  • Aim – a reduction in slurry waste handling (Our client’s slurry production totalled 32,000 tonnes per annum.)
  • Method – using SEM technology to separate the liquid phase and de-water dry matter to create economically and socially valuable by-products
  • Results: water safe to discharge to local watercourse; solids (4% of total volume) used as fertiliser locally; 23% saving in handling, storage and transport costs.

We have been working with a client for the past year, applying our ever-evolving range of technologies and solutions to reduce the handling of slurry waste. Our aim is two-fold: effective separation of the liquid phase for treatment and re-use, and substantial de-watering of the dry matter to create an optimised, valuable by-product which can be re-purposed as livestock bedding, biofuel, fertiliser or growth media.

We implemented our patented MDM technology, which mechanically removes the liquid phase from slurries. It’s so effective that it also captures micro-solids as small as colloidal particles.

We integrated this with our I-DAF unit. An intelligent and autonomous upgrade to most DAF systems on the market today, it’s designed to maximise the removal of: total suspended solids (TSS); biochemical oxygen demand (BOD); chemical oxygen demand (COD) and heavy metals.

Sticking to our environmental guns, we used plant-based coagulant, flocculant and pH correction products that are automatically dosed, based on built in instrumentation readings. This ensured both homogenous, reliable performance and minimal chemical usage. The biodegradable formulations minimise environmental impact, whichever sludge disposal route chosen.

In order to ensure maximum nutrient capture and transfer from the liquid phase into the solids, we used another patented technology of ours – DRAM Filtration – to remove nutrients and heavy metals. DRAM utilises an organic matrix, over 99% of which is comprised of an existing and sustainable, agriculturally produced, grain-based, waste co-product from alcohol distillation.

The filtration process works through sorption, and readily sorbs ammonium nitrate and phosphorous. Combined with an additional proprietary reagent (DRAM+) which provides potassium, these form the essential fertilising elements.

Can you give an example of one of your technologies that focuses on water saving?

H2OPE – our flagship product for the agricultural market:

  • Removes volatile contaminants and de-waters
  • Optimises valuable ingrained nutrients
  • Remaining solid matter can be pelletised for use as fertiliser or as a nutritionally balanced growth media

The environmental benefits:

  • Reduction in application of nutrient rich liquids to agricultural land
  • Decrease in diffuse pollution of waterways due to agricultural run-off
  • Reduced carbon impact due to reduction in transport of slurries off-site
  • Significant reduction in the carbon generated by the manufacture of fertiliser

The social benefits:

  • Fewer greenhouse gases
  • Effluents can be treated on-site
  • Economic savings, as one of the by-products is steam, which can be used for on-site energy generation and distilled water.
  • Less odour emissions

Can you describe the significance of water sustainability in the agricultural industry?

Our goal is always to clean water well enough for re-use and re-purpose at source, whether that is for washdown water or perhaps irrigation. An absolute must for us, this aligns not only with our aims, but those of the United Nations 17 Sustainable Goals.

The sector has been, and will continue to be, paramount to the global economy. By protecting our ecosystems from potentially harmful co-products, we are sustaining not just the agriculture industry, but also the evolution of a circular economy.

Agri-EPI Centre and nutritional challenges of dairy calf rearing

Optimising lifelong productivity

The way a dairy calf is cared for in its early life stages can have major and long-lasting effects on the lifetime trajectory of that animal. This has significance not just at the farm level, but throughout the industry, where issues such as animal welfare, animal diseases and food safety can have substantial consequences.

Improvements in calf rearing will play a crucial role in the future sustainability of British dairy produce. Many problems exist in current calf rearing systems which threaten to restrict the sustainable development of dairy cattle in the UK. When managed incorrectly, dairy calves are susceptible to a range of health and welfare issues associated with inappropriate nutrition and weaning that can have long term impacts on the lifetime productivity of that animal in the dairy herd.

Agri-EPI has made substantial investments in a joint facility with SRUC to facilitate the measurement and management of key elements in calf rearing to optimise lifelong productivity. Colostrum management is the foundation of successful calf rearing. Colostrum contains high concentrations of protective antibodies to support a calf’s immunity, as well as a range of other constituents which are crucial to calf growth and development. Factors such as quality and amount of colostrum, as well as the timescale over which colostrum is delivered can all impact the future health status of an animal.

Getting right the energy and nutrient requirements of each individual animal goes far beyond colostrum. Dry feed, forages and water, as well as supplements and milk replacers also make up significant areas of the calf’s diet and all impact on animal health. Recent research findings suggest that the gut microbiome of the dairy calf is the key opportunity to improve early life gut health.

 

In partnership with you

The overarching aim of Agri-EPI’s dairy work is to develop and trial precision technology and techniques which support sustainable and productive UK milk production. Under an imminent Agricultural Policy reform, British dairy farmers will be required to constantly adapt, innovate and invest to ensure security for the future of the industry.

Agri-EPI’s Calf Research Facility, at SRUC’s Crichton Royal Dairy Farm in Dumfries, allows the daily monitoring of a calf’s consumption of milk, water, forage and concentrates, and its weight gain. Weigh cells in individual feeders record each calf’s intake every time they eat or drink. The data gathered by the units within the facility can be combined with data from ‘animal-mounted’ sensors, such as anklets recording an animal’s activity levels. The result is a comprehensive picture of an animal’s health and development, and how changes to intakes may influence these factors longer-term. The facility also creates opportunities for longer-term research into how different nutritional strategies may influence an animal’s lifetime health and productivity. For example, by considering how different milk formulations may impact on an animal’s growth and productivity.

Agri-EPI and SRUC are keen to partner with individual farmers, calf feed manufacturers, dairy cooperatives, processors, retailers and the wider supply chain to undertake research and trials to develop the latest technologies and techniques in calf rearing.

Example areas for research and trialling at the facility include:

  • Feed trials
  • Microbiome
  • Growth performance
  • Nutrient digestibility
  • Blood biochemical indices
  • Rumen development

For more information about our Calf Research Facility at SRUC Crichton Royal or to discuss a project/trial idea, please contact Kasi McReddie, Agr-EPI Centre Business Development Manager – Livestock.

Wyoming Interactive, digitalisation and agriculture

Enabling smart decisions

Wyoming Interactive is a digital consultancy providing data services, software engineering and user experience design to medical, veterinary, agri-tech and life science organisations.

Launched in 2008, Wyoming have built long-term relationships and a solid reputation for seamless end-to-end digital solutions amongst both US and UK clients over the last 12 years.

Wyoming help producers, breeders and veterinarians achieve high impact outcomes through smarter use of data and digital.

Digitalisation can reduce costs, increase revenues and build value-added services and Wyoming have been heavily involved in delivering these benefits to clients in Europe and North America. Much of their work in the agri-tech sector is to help organisations digitalise traditionally farming processes, such as data collection, through the use of smartphone apps, for example. Connecting new data sources, such as those based on GPS, weather, soil, herd health, crop health, etc. is a relatively new but rapidly increasing need and progressive users are seeing benefits accrue.

Wyoming incorporate these digital data sources into smart tools and power visual dashboards (which can support mobility through smartphone apps). Predictive tools can also be built on top of these data sources to move beyond ‘what happened’ to ‘what will happen’. Consequently, farms can enable smart decisions to be made and poor decisions avoided.

Data-driven farming

Agriculture and farming require digital tools to offer new growth potential. However, many producers have technology from different time periods and from different providers. While ‘point solutions’ can be adept at controlling finances, monitoring yield or tracking pesticide use, this does trend towards data silos making it harder to project an integrated view of farm performance. Data management techniques and digital dashboards marshal those various sources, abstracting the interpretation and action away from clunky source systems and into rich reporting and visualisation tools creating a holistic business view.

Allowing for better visibility and management of the wealth of data both livestock and crop farmers produce, will enable them to make data-driven decisions that will optimise yield, boost revenue, minimise expense and predict the best time to plant.

A recent example of Wyoming’s work was with an organisation that helps farmers to manage farm operations. The data generated from the farm is used throughout the food supply chain and with veterinarians. Wyoming helped to make sense of this data, creating customised models and dashboards tailored to the varying needs of different stakeholders.

For more about Wyoming Interactive, visit: www.wyoming-interactive.com.