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Saturday 24 March 2018
24 March 2018 - NEWS UPDATE
Green Living

Langage Farm’s biogas facility will soon move into profit

Langage Farm expects to make a profit from its biogas plant's digestate next year having successfully built up a market for biofertiliser.


The Langage AD plant

The dairy farm, based in Devon and famed for its artisan ice cream, installed a 500kW anaerobic digester in 2011 and, following successful accreditation under the Biofertiliser Certification Scheme, is now forecasting that demand will outstrip supply for its biofertiliser products in 2014.

Digestate is a nutrient-rich by-product of anaerobic digestion that can be used as an organic fertiliser, displacing more expensive chemical fertilisers.

Anaerobic digestion is the conversion of organic wastes and feedstocks into renewable biogas for heating, electricity or transport fuel.

Disposing of digestate has historically been a problem for the AD industry because of a lack of awareness and confidence among farmers of its potential use as biofertiliser.

The Biofertiliser Certification Scheme is transforming digestate from costly waste into profitable resource by providing trusted certification. The BCS was set up by the Renewable Energy Association's Biogas Group and is managed by the REA's subsidiary company Renewable Energy Assurance Ltd (REAL).

John Deane, who manages Langage AD's Digestate Business Development, said: "Managing digestate output and developing a market for the product was a sizeable challenge. At first we didn't realise the full scale of the challenge as we were initially focused on getting the machinery and business systems up and running. But as we saw the digestate tank rapidly filling up, we knew we had to respond with a strategic solution which, it seems, has set a good precedent.

"We have worked very hard to explain to farmers the benefits of using digestate as biofertiliser, and there are a lot of variables to consider, such as farming systems, soil nutrient levels and, above all, the farmers' willingness to explore innovative new products.

"Gaining accreditation under the BCS greatly reduced our workload and costs, helped build confidence among these potential customers and accelerated our ability to supply the product."

BCS accreditation reduces the cost of using digestate as biofertiliser, for instance, by mitigating the need for expensive permits from the Environment Agency for spreading digestate to land.

In the first year of operation at Langage AD, digestate management costs exceeded £100,000. In the second year, costs dropped to around £80,000 and demand for biofertiliser greatly increased.

This year costs are predicted to be below £20,000 and demand has now begun to outstrip supply, meaning that by the end of 2014 Langage AD's biofertiliser business will be running at a profit.

REA Head of Biogas David Collins, who leads REAL's work on the BCS, said: "Congratulations to Langage AD for developing a sustainable market for their digestate. Government support levels are very tight for the on-farm AD sector at present – a matter we are currently pressing the Government to resolve – and securing a market for digestate could mean the difference between make or break for developers trying to progress their projects. One plant at a time we are turning the economics of digestate upside down, and transforming waste disposal into market opportunity."
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