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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.

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.

Young entrepreneur seeks to ‘freeup’ farmers

Agri-EPI Centre and Overbury Enterprises are working with a young entrepreneur and South Wales farmer’s son who has invented an innovative yet simple dial-reading tool which has the potential to save farmers significant time and money.

Tom McNamara

Tom McNamara demonstrating FreeUP

Tom McNamara’s device, called a ‘FreeUP’, can be mounted onto any kind of equipment or machinery to read and record their analogue dials, instantly making them ‘smart’.

Tom’s FreeUP is currently being tested on three farms including Overbury, which participates in Agri-EPI’s Satellite Farm programme. Tom has established his own company to develop and sell the FreeUP, and he is on the hunt for additional farms willing to take part in trials of the device.

Tom’s simple invention can read the value on any dial, as frequently as needed. Readings are recorded on a webpage and, if they move outside the parameters set by the operator, they will be notified via text message.

The ability to review the data gathered over time supports better informed decision-making. The data can also be exported for use in any other software.

Tom, who is also an academic researcher in farmer-led innovation, explained:

“It is not realistic for most farmers to replace their expensive analogue equipment with digitised versions. The FreeUP offers the solution by making any piece of equipment with a traditional dial ‘smart’. It doesn’t matter what the dial measures, when it was built, what brand it is – the FreeUP will automate it.”

After discussing the device with Agri-EPI Centre, Tom was invited to trial his FreeUP at Overbury Enterprises, where it is mounted on the water irrigation system. The FreeUP is also being trialled at Stackpole Farm in Pembrokeshire for monitoring water pressure in a bore pump and Cheshire’s Reaseheath College where it is being put to various uses in the milking parlour.

Overbury Farm Manager Jake Freestone said:

“Whilst irrigating, we use the FreeUP to monitor water pressure on the irrigation reel which alerts us to significant changes in pressure, allowing us to react quickly to any problems. We are now looking at other applications across the farm and estate.”

Agri-EPI’s Head of Farm Network, Gavin Dick said:

“We are keen to help Tom develop the FreeUP because it fits perfectly with our aim of helping farmers to gather and understand data simply and cost-effectively. It supports good decision making to help improve efficiency, productivity and profitability.”

Tom’s goals are to go on developing his FreeUP by trialling new farm applications, increasing the type of data it can gather and, of course, increasing sales. His overall ambition is to produce a suite of ‘FreeUP’ products in response to needs identified by farmers which automate tasks using simple and affordable equipment that ‘just works’.

Any farms interested in trialling the FreeUP can email Tom at or, for further information, visit www.freeup.world.

FreeUP

Agri-Tech Catalyst funding to support agricultural and food systems innovation in Africa

Competition opens: April 2019

Deadline: June 2019

There is up to £3 million of funding available from the Department for International Development (DFID) for early-stage feasibility studies, mid stage industrial research and late-stage experimental development. Projects must work on agri-tech and food chain innovations with partners in eligible African countries.

The aim of this competition is to increase the pace of development and scale of uptake of agricultural and food systems innovation by farmers and food systems actors (such as manufacturers, processors, retailers, distributors or wholesalers) in Africa. All projects must be collaborative and must include at least one partner from the UK and one from an eligible African country. All funding for businesses and research organisations will be sent through the administrative lead organisation.

You can find out more on the competition page, which will be published here in due course.

KTN is hosting a briefing and consortia building event for Round 8 of the Agri-Tech Catalyst on Friday 22nd March in Birmingham and a series of online webinars on Friday 5th April to provide more tailored support to applicants focussing on projects involving crops, livestock and aquaculture, or food systems and nutrition.

  • Friday 22nd March – Free Briefing & Consortia Building Event – Birmingham. Places are limited and a registration of interest system is being used. Register your interest here
  • Friday 5th April 9.30 – 11.00 Crop Webinar. Register here.
  • Friday 5th April 12.00 – 13.30 Livestock and Aquaculture Webinar. Register here.
  • Friday 5th April 14.00 – 15.30 Food Systems and Nutrition Webinar. Register here.

Further information can be found on the KTN website here.  Please contact a member of the KTN Agri-Food team on agrifood@ktn-uk.org if you would like to discuss a potential application or need help finding a project partner.

 

Innovate UK Smart Grants Funding Competition NOW OPEN

Smart is the new name for Innovate UK’s “Open grant funding” programme.

  • Competition opens: Monday 18 February 2019
  • Competition closes: Wednesday 24 April 2019 12:00pm

Innovate UK, as part of UK Research and Innovation, will invest up to £20 million in the best game-changing or disruptive ideas with a view to commercialisation.

All proposals must be business focused, rather than pure research. Applications can come from any area of technology (including arts, design, media or creative industries), science or engineering and be applied to any part of the economy.

Costs and project duration

Project duration between 6 and 18 months: total eligible project costs between £25,000 and £500,000 (single company or collaboration).

Project duration between 19 and 36 months: total eligible project costs between £25,000 and £2 million (collaboration only).

Eligible projects with costs over £2 million (but not exceeding £3 million), may be considered subject to the process set out under ‘Eligibility’.

To apply, and for more details on the competition click here. 

Agribots and the tech revolution on the farm

To share best practices and promote the UK as a leader in precision agriculture innovation, the American Science and Innovation Network (SIN) invited a delegation from the Agri-EPI Centre to visit the US, covering visits…

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