Climate change 2030 – Keeping it clean
As we enter another round of societal demands on farmers relating to climate change, particularly the impact animal production has on the carbon footprint. The finger pointing continues and the questions ensue…
How do we scale up regards emission reduction for pig and poultry farming?
An interesting question that has been asked of me during several presentations on air scrubbing and energy recovery over the last 6 weeks. Why is this question is being asked? Perhaps not just coincidental, considering the recent Cop 26 climate conference in Glasgow.
As we raise focus on the subject that drives governments to bring, emission targets forward to 2030. This also stimulates a different sort of conversation as to what we should do in our sector to remain clean. Let’s face it, it’s no secret the meat industry is under increasing scrutiny with regards to its impact on climate change. Whether it’s for genuine reasons or just by those who want us to stop eating meat. We should seriously consider options now, as leaving until just before the deadlines, will end up being too late. Or as being experienced in countries where the dialogue has continued for many years and rules are now being strictly applied. A disaster for many farmers who didn’t react.
The assumptions are on the whole unfair. Yes, it’s no secret meat consumption makes up a big percentage of the total food footprint. However, if you put it in the overall context of carbon load per capita. Then one would have to ask the question, shouldn’t we be putting the focus elsewhere? Especially when we isolate Pig and Poultry consumption, where the contribution in the developed world is around 2% of our total carbon footprint. Yes only 2%.
Keeping our noses clean
This does not mean we should not be vigilant. As in the future not acting to improve wherever possible, will be seen as the greater sin. So how can we address this and what role does air scrubbing and Energy recovery play. First, it is probably worth look at the overall carbon cost from the production of meat, in this case a kilo of chicken meat. At Inno+, we use an LCA model from Blonk consultants and apply the potential effect of our technologies on it.
Graph 1 – Carbon foot print
What we see on the farm in question. We create 4.18kgs of carbon for every 1kg of meat produced. Some of this comes from the breeding of the animals, some the emissions they produce, but the larger part understandably is the production and consumption of the feed that the animals convert to protein. By providing an optimal climate to the house, we can improve the conditions for the animals allowing them to perform better. Leading to lower feed consumption and better health. This can from what we see, lead up to between 10-20% improvement in performance. One of the results, lower feed use.
Graph 2 – Ammonia emission
This second graph profile is more representative of the effect air scrubbing has on the emissions. That add to the load, through local effect on the natural environment such as plant life and waterways. As well as animal and human health.
What to do about it?
Therefore from this information it is clear we could end up ‘exposed’, as the discussions develop and the finger pointing continues. So the big question, how do we address this and be able to say, we did everything we could to play our part in keeping the planet clean.
Air scrubbing and how can it help
Air scrubbing is the process of washing exhaust air from a livestock house, to remove the pollutants that have gathered in it as part of the production process. Usually Ammonia, Dust and Odour, the later containing a variety of other compound molecules that can find their way into the atmosphere. By removing these, we reduce the chance of pollution and contamination that has a long-term effect on the local environment, influencing climate change. The process of air scrubbing has been tried and tested over many years and today there are official protocols as to how we execute this process. This is all fine, but there is one big problem. Cost.
Philosophy behind cleaning up
If we breakdown how the rules playout and therefore how the lawmakers determine who can or cannot build a farm today. What we see is a process of almost zero tolerance. What I mean by this is that the authorities accept that current farms are polluting and there is probably little they can do about it. Therefore easier to go after new farms where they can put up some roadblocks and create some hoops for the farmer to jump through. In a strange way focussing on farms that through use of modern technology are less likely to pollute than their predecessors.
Because the bar to achieve this is raised so high, the cost of doing becomes a painful pill for the applicant to swallow. On top of this, the rule makers are really only scratching the tip of the iceberg. At best only 5% of the total farm footprint being replaced or upgraded each year. With only a small percentage, the strict environmental rules applying. This means the real figure is probably less than 1% of farms being upgraded with this type of reduction technology. Therefore, by 2030, less than 10% of farm buildings will have been equipped with technology to deal with air pollution and emissions.
Scaling up – a business opportunity
If burdening the farmer is not the answer, what alternative is there? There is no question when talking to farmers, they are more than happy to respond to the demands society puts on them. As long as it does not come out of their pockets and tight margins. At the end of the day, nobody wants to be seen as the bad guy, just to get on and run a profitable business.
Therefore, an alternative would be to address the challenge across the board, find an attractive middle ground that brings the nett benefit we are looking for, eg. Emission reduction of 50% by 2030, at a price that is attractive for government to stimulate reasonable subsidy or a cost to green labelling on the supermarket shelves that doesn’t bite too hard with the consumer. Say 10-20p a bird. Better still a combination of both. This means we then deliver on targets without punishing the farmer.
Subsidise and green label
Using the UK poultry sector as a typical example or a new market for air abatement, still coming to terms with the rules.
Graph 3 – Removal efficiency as a function of total air treated
Below is a hypothetical calculation as to how we could rollout emission reduction through air scrubbing. Allowing the sector to meet its 50% target by 2030, based on tried and tested standards. The graph demonstrates that moving from higher volumes of total air cleaning to 30%, does not have a dramatic overall impact on air abatement. This reduction directly correlates to cost of doing. Less air, smaller air scrubber, lower cost.
For UK broilers
- Total 6000 poultry buildings
- 2bn chickens produced
What’s the cost?
- Between £ 60,000 per building
- Running cost £ 7,000 per year
- 50% reduction in emissions
- 6000 poultry houses 50% emissions @70% reduction = 4,285 buildings
10% rollout per year over 10 years
- 428 x £60,000 = £ 25,8M per year.
- (New builds, refurbs, existing)
- Capex £ 25.8M per year
- Opex £3M year 1
As a percentage
- Based on £4 per chicken at the super market – 1.2bn chickens produced = £ 4.8 bn per year.
- £27,2m/ £ 4.8 bn = 0.6% investment year 1 rising to 0.8% year 10
Pay back from Green labelling or Environmentally Sustainable chicken
- 50,000 birds x 6.5 rounds = 325,000
- Current known @4p/Bird/year
- Farmer gets £13,000 /house/year
Return on investment
- 50K bird scrubber – £60,000
- Running cost £7,000
- 10 year payback
- Could be faster with higher premiums, subsidy and energy saving
Hands in pockets
Most of us understand how important it is to source our food locally and to be serious about how we protect the systems allowing us to do this. To help them produce sustainably.
Air scrubbing will play a significant role in dealing with our environmental challenges and hopefully not be a heavy cost on the farmer. Of course the failing we experience in countries where rules have over played practicality, is that the farmers voice has either not been heard or ignored.
Is this because too much time was spent on discussing the rules and not finding a workable alternative to benefit all. Who knows? Whichever way, if there is a desire from Government and Society to get serious about finding a workable solution with their farmers. Then at some point, they will have to put their hands in their pockets and stop with the discussion.
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