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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.

Agri industry driving R&D

Claiming tax relief

Paul Crooks of CATAX, an Agri-EPI member, explains how those in the agri-tech sector can make a claim for the Research and Development (R&D) tax relief available.

“The demands on farmers and the agri-tech sector, driven by requirements for increasing efficiency, minimising or mitigating environmental threats, reducing energy use, waste management etc are significant and are driving an enormous research and development effort within the industry. However, farmers and the agri-tech sector are missing out on hundreds of thousands of Pounds in unclaimed Research and Development (R&D) tax relief.

“We know not enough farmers and agricultural businesses are coming forward because the numbers reaching Catax’s door are dwarfed by those in other industries such as engineering and manufacturing. As one of the UK’s leading specialist tax companies, that finding is meaningful.”

Areas where R&D is most likely to be found in agriculture include:

  • Development and use of new technologies and processes in farming
  • Reductions in the environmental impact of the sector
  • Use of data and the internet of things to aid crop or animal management
  • Robotics and AI
  • Monitoring, satellite imagery and remote sensing
  • Increasing yield
  • Improving labour productivity through robotics and machines
  • Resource management
  • Biotechnology
  • Drone technology
  • Soil management and smart irrigation.

The project doesn’t have to be successful to qualify and claims can be back-dated two years.

“Many businesses do not realise that much of what they are doing can be categorised as R&D under the government’s rules, making them eligible for the valuable tax relief that was designed to reward and encourage innovation. The HMRC criteria for genuine R&D is whether an appreciable improvement can be shown, addressing a scientific or technological uncertainty.

“Catax worked with a leading UK equipment manufacturer who wanted to develop their own range of manure spreaders and trailers and the technological uncertainty came about in meeting new mechanical, construction and design parameters to produce a new series of equipment which had increased functionality. Our twelve years of experience in specialist tax relief enabled us to identify and, importantly, maximise the qualifying costs in this innovative project and the tax benefit to the engineering business amounted to £30 000.

“Another client wanted to develop an automatic gas purging system in his potato store and a lot of work was carried out in determining the optimum location and frequency of gas sensors which linked to the automatic purging pump. The total tax saving for this business was over £60 000.

“The average tax relief benefit for farmers and agritech businesses we have worked with has amounted to £50,000 – a significant sum which could be reinvested in the business to fuel further innovation and growth. If your business profits from products you hold a patent on, then the Patent Box Tax Relief can also help retain more of those profits in your business.”

Many businesses in receipt of public grants from Innovate etc have been advised that they cannot claim R&D Tax Relief on grant aided projects. This is untrue, although the claim is processed through a different HMRC programme to the normal one available to SME businesses and can amount to a benefit of nearly 10% of the entire R&D project.

As in most disciplines, the results achieved by specialists can differ significantly from that achieved by many generalists and the same principals apply in the field of R&D Tax Relief. Most good R&D tax specialists will work on a commission basis so cost considerations can be dismissed as no fees will apply unless a significant benefit is achieved for your business.

Catax have developed a highly efficient system which maximises your tax benefit but minimises your time involvement while we collect and process the information required.

For more information, visit: www.catax.com.

Agri-tech partners support Covid-19 food security

Cutting-edge crop monitoring solution

A collaboration involving Agri-EPI Centre and leading agri-tech start-up Mantle Labs is offering a cutting-edge crop monitoring solution for UK food security during the coronavirus pandemic.

The recent surge in consumer demand and potential trade disruptions caused by the virus pose a real threat to uninterrupted food supply. To avoid this, retailers, supermarkets, food processors and government departments need to have visibility of what is happening across UK agriculture and be able to quickly monitor food supply chains for forward planning.

Mantle Labs is offering its unique ‘Geobotanics’ platform to retailers and others involved in the supply chain, free-of-charge for a period of three months. The Artificial Intelligence (AI) – based platform mixes imagery from multiple satellites to assess current agricultural conditions and provides early warning of potential supply issues.

The platform works seamlessly even in cloudy conditions to give a clear indication of potential problem hotspots around the country and provide projected crop yields. The Geobotanics platform runs on Amazon Web Services (AWS), which enables Mantle Labs to scale its platform quickly and easily to analyse very large volumes of high resolution crop satellite imagery across large surface areas.

Agri-EPI is supporting Mantle Labs in promoting the technology. Discussions are at an early stage with a key organisation within the agri-food industry.

Jon Pierre, Mantle Labs’ Chief Business Officer, said:

“The information provided by our dashboard can be factored into retailers’ procurement and inventory planning. They can work closely with their supplier farmers to tackle problem spots early, determine if issues can be remedied and therefore provide additional resilience and certainty to supply chains of individual items. Government departments can utilise the platform to flag issues relating to national food security.

Analysis can be farm-level, regional and country level; thereby allowing for constant monitoring and forward planning for a variety of procured produce.”

The Geobotanics platform identifies all standing crops on the ground and indicates crop health for all fields including any anomalies likely to impact the production. The total acreage under cultivation by crop type can be quickly accessed which helps in identifying any shortfall in production at a very early stage.

The platform also identifies fallow land, allowing decisions to be taken to bring this under immediate cultivation to fill the gaps in overall demand.

Dave Ross, Chief Executive of Agri-EPI Centre said:

“Innovation and collaboration are vital to identifying solutions to the issue of potential supply chain disruption and we are doing all we can to support our members, working with Mantle Labs and Amazon Web Services to deliver this offer to retailers and UK Government.”

Those interested in discussing this opportunity with Mantle Labs should in the first instance contact Agri-EPI Centre Project Manager, Freddie Reed.

New venture for Agri-EPI at Dairy-Tech 2020

Agri-EPI is for the first time exhibiting at the major Dairy-Tech event

Taking place at Stoneleigh Park, Coventry on February 5, this one-day event showcases ground-breaking concepts and innovation.

Agri-EPI is teaming up with partners Glas Data and AgSenze to showcase technology at the event’s Innovation Hub – find them there at 10.55am.

Head of Dairy, Duncan Forbes, will be giving a talk about the ground-breaking activities taking place at the Agri-EPI South West Dairy Development Centre in Somerset, such as the use of 5G connectivity for improved health and welfare, precision grazing trials and automated milking systems.

The partners will also exhibit at the stand, where visitors can learn more about each company as well as new projects, trials and technologies supporting sustainable milk production.

Lisa Williams, Agri-EPI’s Director of Business Development said:

“We see this is a key event for us so are looking forward to being there. Due to the transformation in the dairy industry over recent years, it’s becoming increasingly apparent that farmers need to be competitive and irrespective of their system type and market they supply. Regardless of their cost base, future successful dairy businesses must be informed, resilient, proactive and efficient. Dairy-Tech provides this platform, alongside a recognition that dairy farming has become a professional industry.

If you would like more information about our presence at the show, please contact Lisa by email or phone: 07950 697 212.

Agri-EPI Centre welcomes new members to the team

We are pleased to announce and welcome the arrival of three new staff members to our team. With Lisa, Francesca and Emily on board, we will be able to drive forward our goals to support a productive and sustainable agri-food sector and help us demonstrate that there is an exciting and tech-driven future for agriculture. Let us introduce them here in more detail:

Lisa Williams
>Director of Business Development

Lisa has vast experience in the agri-food sector, having spent over 20 years working in the industry in a variety of different roles. She loves the diversity of the sector and wants to showcase solutions and help improve agricultural businesses.

Her varied career has involved working directly in food manufacturing, which has included roles in health and safety, HR, technical and management.

While working for Food Northwest, she held the role of project manager, working across international trade, seafood, dairy and meat. Her positions have seen her travel around the world with different projects and given her breadth and depth of experience.

More recently, Lisa headed the agri-food division of Promar International, with a focus on business development, project delivery, implementing systems, PR and team management. Her broad, but agri-food related career has brought her to where she is now.

Lisa joined Agri-EPI on 30 September 2019, taking on the role of Director of Business Development. She feels that this position is a combination of all the previous roles and will build on everything she has done in the past. She is very excited to focus on engaging with members and promoting agri-tech solutions so that all aspects of the agriculture and food supply chains can reap the rewards and benefit from the improvements to their own businesses and supply chain.

Francesca El Jorr
>Marketing Officer

Francesca is a Marketing with Brand Management graduate from the University of Stirling, who has experience working in the Higher Education sector. In her role as Marketing Officer at Agri-EPI Centre, she supports the Centre’s efforts in raising its online and organisational profile in the Agri-Tech industry. Agri-tech is a new industry for Francesca, but she is looking forward learning more about the impact that Agri-Tech has on both national and global food production, for both farmers and business owners.

Emily Laskin
>Projects Assistant

Emily is a graduate from University of California, Davis with a degree in Biological and Agricultural Engineering. Growing up surrounded by farmland in Northern California as well as having spent many summers with her family in England’s Lake District sparked a passion for local and sustainable food production from an early age. Whilst at university she focused on projects involving food science and technology and indoor vertical farming. She is excited to join the technical team at Agri-EPI supporting the success of projects on the satellite farms and Innovate UK funded research projects.

 


Careers

We expect further expansion of staff, so watch this space for updates. If you are have general enquiries about working at Agri-EPI Centre, please contact our HR Manager:

Suzie Brown
people@agri-epicentre.com
T 0131 239 7100

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