Wednesday, August 10, 2022

LUDF unveils methane-busting effluent system

A major scientific breakthrough in effluent treatment technology will significantly reduce methane emissions from dairy farm effluent.

Lincoln University Professor Keith Cameron, pictured here with Ravensdown’s Carl Ahlfeld, says the natural biological EcoPond system essentially nullifies the methane-creating process.

A major scientific breakthrough in effluent treatment technology will significantly reduce methane emissions from dairy farm effluent.

The methane-busting farm dairy effluent treatment system was launched on Wednesday at the Lincoln University Dairy Farm (LUDF).

Developed by Ravensdown and Lincoln University, EcoPond is scientifically proven to reduce dairy effluent pond methane emissions by 99.9%.

It also reduces carbon dioxide by up to 50%, dissolved reactive phosphate (DRP) by 99% and E.coli by up to 99%.

The discovery is a 100% natural biological system.

As effluent passes through a specialised mixing coil it receives a calculated amount of iron sulphate, which creates an environment in the pond water within which microorganisms find it impossible to produce any methane gas.

“This is an important date on the world scene, this is about technology and tools to deliver on the COP aspirations,” Ravensdown general manager innovation and strategy Mike Manning said.

“This is answering farmers’ needs, a game-changer allowing the dairy industry to take a giant leap forward and give farmers the confidence to farm and meet obligations into the future.

“This is a momentous day.”

Ravensdown and Lincoln University collaborated on the science that underpins the technology and Ravensdown will provide the system to dairy farmers wanting to reduce their methane emissions.

“The New Zealand dairy sector is already a world leader in its carbon emissions efficiency, but the country has set a 12% target of biogenic methane reduction by 2030,” he said.

“This new tool has the benefit of robust science behind it and will be available to start tracking towards that target now.”

Almost all dairy farms use effluent ponds, which are the second-largest source of on-farm methane emissions.

An average NZ dairy farm of 400 cows that installed EcoPond could cut total farm methane emissions by 4-5%, depending on the individual farm. 

A computer-controlled pump and mixing system precisely administers the exact amount of iron sulphate, a safe additive used in the treatment of drinking water.

The automated “plug and play” inline system, which can be retrofitted to existing effluent systems, also reduces odour and risk of phosphate loss from pond effluent when spread on-farm.

Ravensdown chair John Henderson says EcoPond is not a one-trick-pony, it is a pipeline of technologies, some launched already, others to come.

He says to succeed with large-scale uptake the solutions must be smarter, but they also must be simple.

“Farmers are focused on getting the best from their resources, they need solutions that are easy, simple and cost effective,” Henderson said.

“This masterful piece of technology meets all the above.” 

He says climate change concerns and the part agriculture plays in that space has Ravendown’s research and development spend increasing year-on-year.

“We must continue in that direction if we are able to help our shareholders and the rest of NZ continue to improve their environmental footprint,” he said.

“While EcoPond is our latest release, we have several other initiatives in the pipeline with Lincoln.

“We are also encouraged by the interest shown by some of our multinational suppliers who are either active in joint ventures with us or are talking to us about other prospects.”

Professor Keith Cameron of Lincoln University says the effluent ponds are an important part of a dairy farm system in recycling nutrients and helping to meet environmental rules as set by regional councils.

“This new system has been tested in the lab and at farm scale where it proves enormously effective at essentially nullifying the methane-creating process,” Cameron said.

He says reducing the risk of DRP loss to water by up to 99% means that this essential nutrient can be recycled with reduced risk of water contamination. Stripping out E.coli also makes the dairy effluent much safer to irrigate to pasture.

Next year, farmers will be responding to the Government’s reaction to the Climate Change Commission, as well as the new way to account for their own emissions. 

“In this GHG space, farmers need tested solutions at pace and this is what this collaborative venture represents,” Manning said.

“Before EcoPond the only options for farmers to meet serious environmental targets was to reduce stock numbers, feed intake and/or pay the price of carbon.”

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