A sludge treatment solution that converts liquid manure into nitrogen-rich fertilizer has been shortlisted for an award recognizing green technology.
Using a technique called plasma conversion, N2 Applied’s technology ‘locks’ both methane and ammonia in liquid sludge to produce sustainable fertilizer on the farm.
Plasma-treated fertilizer has been scientifically proven to reduce ammonia and methane emissions almost completely. It also retains nitrogen to further eliminate the need for chemical fertilizers while maintaining comparable crop yields.
Now the company behind the technology has been nominated for a ‘Tech For Good’ award at the UK Business Tech Awards in recognition of its efforts to create the green solution.
Nick Humphries, Chief Agronomist and UK Director of N2 Applied, explained: “We have developed an innovative solution that uses only air and electricity to locally produce environmentally friendly fertilizers while stopping methane and ammonia emissions from livestock manure. We believe this is the most effective and integrated solution to solve the challenge.”
N2 Unit, as the technology is called, has been used in the UK, Northern Europe and South Africa, with the Scottish Rural College (SRUC) becoming the first UK purchaser and Arla Foods UK conducting a trial in his Innovation Farm where he used the technology to process manure from the farm’s 500-cow dairy herd.
Annual trial data recently released by the company from international trial sites has been independently evaluated by scientists including Oxford Agricultural Trials. It showed that the wheat crop used 85% of the nitrogen applied to the fields through the company’s fertilizer compared to 58% from an ammonium nitrate chemical fertilizer and 53% from untreated slurry.
With the cost of fertilizers rising, N2 Applied’s solution offers an ‘attractive’ option for farmers dealing with a volatile market, says Humphries. “The skyrocketing price of chemical fertilizers this year is a turning point – it has shown us that it cannot be the future of food production in the UK.”told us. “We can no longer rely so heavily on chemical fertilizers produced around the world, and instead need to find sustainable alternatives that farmers have more control over. In addition, we must make rapid cuts in methane emissions to reduce the impact of climate change, and ammonia reduction has long been desirable.”
To adopt an N2 Unit, farms must bear the initial cost of the unit itself, plus the cost of electricity. “The costs of our solution are in the initial purchase of the hardware and the electricity required to power it”,Humphries said, adding that having a renewable source on the farm would make the technology more efficient.
“The resulting fertilizer material does not cost more to produce [compared to conventional alternatives] – and given the high cost of chemical fertilizers and the low-emission alternative we offer to the market, this sustainable approach offers an attractive path.”
Each N2 Unit is suitable for a farm of up to 200 head of cattle on average, and larger farms can be expanded by installing multiple units. “The benefits to the environment, farms and the food industry are now proven, and widespread deployment of this technology will be a game changer.”Humphries told DairyReporter. “The right drivers and incentives are key to driving change, and rising costs have posed that challenge.
“Government, industry and food production value chains must work together to identify the best way to make this transition affordable and viable as soon as possible.”
The company has won or been shortlisted for several awards and accelerator programs including The Norrsken Awards, the largest Nordic award for impactful startups, The Manure Challenge US and Foodbytes. by Rabbank. “Being shortlisted for such a prestigious award marks both the positive progress we have made as our technology has been tested on UK farms and its potential to become an important enabler of more sustainable food production.”Humphries concluded.