Delivering multiple benefits with manure management

The management and treatment of manures and slurries from livestock production is becoming an increasing issue around the world. The potential of manure to cause environmental harm and contribute to climate change when not correctly stored, handled or applied is significant. However, manures and slurries also represent a valuable resource and can return valuable crop nutrients to farmland in a way which does not rely on energy-intensive industrial processing.

In the European Union some 1.4 billion tonnes of manure is produced each year, the majority of which needs management ranging from simple, low cost methods – such as appropriate storage – to complex techniques such separation or anaerobic digestion (AD). However, estimates suggest that less than 10 per cent of the EU’s manure is currently actively managed.1

In many countries there are environmental restrictions on the application of manures to land, meaning that farms must have sufficient storage capacity for manure which cannot be applied directly to land. As up to 90 per cent of pig and cattle slurry is water, reducing the water content is an effective way to reduce the required storage capacity. Furthermore, being able to store manure so that it can be applied when the nutrients it contains will be of maximum benefit is good agricultural practice and can help to maintain or improve crop yields, as well as reducing potential odours and gaseous emissions during application.

Finding solutions

These challenges led to the creation of the EU-funded EfficientHeat project in 2011, which looked at an ‘Integrated and cost-effective solutions to reduce the volume of pig slurry; minimise pollutant emissions and process energy consumption’. The project, which was co-ordinated by HRS Sales and Product Development Director Arnold Kleijn, looked at how to improve the situation for pig producers in Spain, many of whom were reliant on off-site treatment plants to reduce the volume of slurry and manure produced.

By the time the project was concluded in 2013, not only had it cut treatment costs by 40 per cent, but it had also speeded up the treatment process, reduced energy consumption by 25 per cent, cut slurry volumes by 60 per cent and created potential revenue streams for farmers in terms of nutrients and potential biogas.

Arnold Kleijn explains: “We used evaporation because the thermal energy needed for evaporation can often be obtained from nearby combined heat and power plants at little or no cost. One of the keys to success was improving the scraping action in the evaporator and preventing the concentrated manure from sticking to the surfaces. This increases heat transfer rates two- to threefold, increasing efficiency and speeding up the evaporation process. By combining the various technologies, we reduced slurry volume by up to 60 per cent, resulting in less storage requirements and fewer tanker journeys.”

Following the success of the EfficientHeat project, HRS Heat Exchangers continued to develop the technology to improve its efficiency and make it suitable for practical use on farms. We utilised our Unicus Series scraped-surface heat exchanger technology to provide the necessary evaporation and used acid dosing to reduce volatile ammonia in the process.

The first commercial HRS plant was commissioned in Spain and treats up to 12 tonnes and hour of pig manure from a number of nearby farms. The system has reduced volumes and therefore storage and treatment requirements, while the concentrated manure is returned to the farms for use as fertiliser. Since this first plant, we have been involved in four other plants which manage and concentrate digestate from anaerobic digestion plants using a very similar process.

1 Inventory of Manure Processing Activities in Europe, 2011. Available at http://agro-technology-atlas.eu/docs/21010_technical_report_I_inventory.pdf

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Berry Gardens aims to double business

Berry Gardens chief executive Jacqui Green has revealed that the soft- and stonefruit cooperative plans to double its turnover to £700 million by the mid-2020s.

Her comments came during a discussion of the business and the overall industry with FJP editor Michael Barker at the FPJ Live event in Coventry last week. The expansion, which comes along with previously announced plans for new and improved production facilities, is part of the company’s PICK initiative, which stands for People; Innovation; Collaboration and Knowledge.

“We’ve got some really ambitious growth plans, and maybe Brexit might have a big influence on it, but we’re looking to double the size of the business by the mid-2020s,” said Jacqui. “We’d [previously]looked at the future and it wasn’t comfortable. A lot of growth has been grower-driven.”

She added that thanks to their healthy eating message, berries had the potential to compete with unhealthy confectionery and snacks and that this was where she saw most future growth in consumption coming from.

Photo Caption: Jacqui Green speaking at FPJ Live

Photo Credit: Richard Crowhurst

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UK potato harvesting described as ‘patchy’

The maincrop potato harvest is now well underway, although a mixture of very dry conditions and torrential rains are adding to what was already a ‘patchy’ and difficult situation for the crop.

One grower, Ben Sykes from North Yorkshire told Farmers Guardian that by 8 October they had harvested around 20 per cent of their 220 ha crop, compared with 40-50 per cent in an average year.

“They were planted a lot later because of a wet spring and it has been a stressful growing season with the heat. We’ve had to wait a long time for them to mature and now we are harvesting dangerously late,” he said.

Earlier this year AHDB Potatoes’ planting survey recorded a 3 per cent drop in area, making it the third lowest planting figure on record, while overall the North-western European Potato Growers (NEPG) association estimates crop yields in the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Germany and the UK will be 8 per cent below the five-year average at around 30-40 t/ha depending on irrigation and water availability.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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Birmingham opens new wholesale market

Birmingham’s new integrated wholesale market, which is one of the largest in Europe, has been officially opened at a launch event on Friday 5 October.

The event was billed as a celebration of the market’s 850-year history, and saw traders joined in the new environment by a steel band, Chinese lion dance and television crew. Mark Tate, chairman of the Birmingham Wholesale Fresh Produce Association, told those at the event: “I’d like to thank all the traders who supported my decisions throughout the process, our belief has driven us to this magnificent building today. I have a request that goes out to all the people of Birmingham and the Midlands, we need your support, to keep buying our fruit and vegetables, and meat and fish from the wholesale market.”

Chris Taplee, of wholesaler Mack Birmingham, commented, “This place is magnificent, I’ve been doing this for 20 years and I’m now I’m looking forward to the next 30. Trade has picked up, we’re getting people from Wolverhampton now; someone from Liverpool came the other day. It’s the shot in the arm we needed.”

The new location on Nobel Way in Witton is how to almost 90 traders, including those selling meat poultry and fish as well as fresh produce, based around a large central covered avenue, together with warehouses, a cafe and management offices.

Photo Credit: Birmingham Wholesale Market

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New strategy launched for apple industry

English Apples & Pears (EAP) has unveiled a new strategy that it hopes will see the UK top fruit sector fulfil its potential over the next twelve years.

The Great British Apples strategy, which is presented in a video on the EAP website, includes a target to increase production and boost the market share of the UK crop from its current level of 42 per cent to 60 per cent by 2030.

EAP chair Ali Capper says in the film, “In our opinion there’s a massive opportunity for growth. With the right support from both government and retail there’s an opportunity to grow market share to 60 per cent by 2030. Everyone at English Apples & Pears is up for the challenge.”

Among the areas that the strategy wants to see improved are immigration policy, technology, investment in what consumers want, and telling the story of UK apples. “Our first priority is to work with the government to secure the immigration policies that our sector needs,” Capper said.

Speaking to journalist Fred Searle at the FPJ Live event in Coventry last week, Capper agreed that it was “quite a punchy” target, adding: “It doesn’t get more long term than planning orchards, and that long term nature means that we need a good relationship with retailers.”

Photo Credit: NFU

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Reduce waste and future-proof production with automatic product recovery

Industry 4.0; fourth industrial revolution; internet of things – Three terms referring to the shift in industry towards autonomous production systems using machines which are controlled and monitored by computer-based algorithms. While there can be a lot of hype, there is no doubt that the general direction of travel in manufacturing is for the use of more autonomous systems – presenting a fantastic opportunity for businesses to tackle key challenges, such as minimising and preventing waste.

When processing various, often viscous, food products a certain amount adheres to the inside surfaces of machinery and pipework. Some product may also be left behind upon completion of each production run. A combination of good design and cleaning systems can be used to overcome the issue. The three main techniques – physical ‘pigging systems’, water-based flushing, and forcing clean air through the system – all remove residual product as part of cleaning-in-place (CIP) procedures, which may need to be carried out several times a day.

While all of these recovery techniques have the ability to salvage residual product, a certain amount is still lost as waste. However, by using inline monitoring equipment linked to a system designed to allow product which meets the specified parameters to be reworked, the amount of valuable product recovered from equipment such as pasteurisers and sterilisers can be maximised.

This concept is not new in automation. Every HRS pasteuriser or steriliser already has a temperature transmitter and a three-way valve installed after the holding tube. If for any reason the pasteurisation or sterilisation temperature (set point) is not maintained through the holding tube, the temperature transmitter sends a signal to the valve to return the product to the holding tank.

This same principle is now being applied to the HRS Product Recovery System. Rather than just measuring temperature, any suitable physical or chemical property can be continually monitored, such as Brix, pH, viscosity or density. The choice of which parameter is used depends on the nature of the product and the sensors that are available.

For example, on a line producing fruit juice, monitoring the concentration of the juice leaving the pasteuriser is monitored using a Brix meter allows any juice which falls below a set level to be diverted. By monitoring the product concentration from the beginning of the flushing cycle, it is possible to send juice with a Brix level of 12 or higher to the next phase of production (such as packing), and only discard material which falls below this set parameter.

As well as increasing the amount of product which can be sold, reducing the amount of waste generated decreases disposal costs such as storage, transport and treatment. Alongside these financial benefits, the environmental footprint of the production line will also be improved, with more end product being obtained for the same effort – effectively lowering CO2e emissions per unit produced. Furthermore, cutting down the amount of product mixed in with the flushing or cleaning water means that the resulting waste stream is cleaner and will require less processing.

As all HRS pasteurisers and sterilisers already include a three-way valve to allow for the diversion of out-of-specification product, the only real additional expense are the monitoring and control systems. With potential cost savings running into hundreds of thousands of pounds, such systems rapidly repay any additional capital expense.

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New protection system for cherries comes to Europe

A new cherry protection system, which the manufacturers claim can be opened and closed in minutes, is heading to European orchards having been successfully used in Chile.

Wayki Solutions says that a single worker can cover, or remove, on hectare in just 20 minutes, much less time than is required with most other systems, including automated ones. The system uses a normal hand drill to turn the winding mechanism, which in turn opens and closes the covers, which sit above the existing orchard poles.

Cristián Lopez of Wayki Europe said, “Around the world, we are experiencing more and more severe and unexpected weather conditions. This has serious implications for the fruit business as it raises the possibility of events including rain and hail damaging fruit, and high winds damaging growing infrastructure such as poles and cables. Wayki is a very exciting development because it gives growers the control to cover and uncover their orchards and vineyards in a matter of minutes in response to these events.”

As well as cherries, the company believes that the cover system may have applications for crops including blueberries, apples and other soft fruit, and different types of cover can be fitted.

Photo Credit: pixabay

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Re-trial of Tesco executives begins this week

This week sees the re-trial of two former Tesco executives begin at Southwark Crown Court in London after their first trial in February was called off.

Christopher Bush, 52, former managing director of Tesco UK, and John Scouler, 50, former UK food commercial director, are both charged with one count of fraud by abuse of position and one count of false accounting. Both deny the charges.

The case resulted from an overstatement of Tesco’s profit forecast in 2014 which plunged the company into turmoil and led to several senior members of staff being suspended.

According to the legal indictment, Bush and Scouler concealed Tesco’s true financial position from its auditors and other employees between Feb. 1, 2014 and Sept. 23, 2014. Legal representatives for Bush and Scouler declined to comment ahead of the trial.

Photo Caption: Christopher Bush pictured during his time at Tesco.

Photo Credit: Adrian Brooks/Imagewise

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Produce Investments loses contract

Press reports suggest that major potato supplier Produce Investments, which owns Greenvale AP, Swancote Foods and The Jersey Royal Company, has lost one of its key contracts.

According to Food Manufacture, the unnamed customer plans to implement a ‘single supplier strategy’ and so Produce Investments will not be offered a new contract when its existing one expires next August, with product volume expected to be gradually phased over three years from that date.

A spokesman for Produce Investments said, “While naturally disappointed with the outcome of this decision, this is part of the ordinary course of business in the sector in which the company operates. The board will continue to work hard to drive new business and mitigate over time any negative impact this decision may have on the company’s operations.”

The news came just days before new Greenvale managing director Andy Clarkson, who has been promoted from customer operations director, was due to address the FPJ Live conference in Coventry. On his appointment, Mr Clarkson commented, “I am pleased to have the opportunity to continue the development of the Greenvale business. We have a great team internally and externally and I am very much looking forward to the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead.”

Last month Produce Investments accepted a £52.95 million takeover from Jersey-based investment company Bidco, which will delist the group from the stock market.

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The Role of Zero Liquid Discharge in Reducing Hazardous Wastes

Thanks to tighter environmental regulations and greater public awareness, companies are increasingly looking to reduce or eliminate the waste that they produce. In recent years, Zero Liquid Discharge (ZLD) has become an important waste reduction technique, but its potential in dealing with hazardous waste streams has not been fully appreciated until now.

One of the advantages of ZLD over other treatment techniques is its theoretical ability to separate unwanted materials from water, whether they are benign, hazardous or toxic. The resulting solid residue is often more stable, making it suitable for recycling or landfill. A well-designed ZLD system should minimise or even eliminate liquid waste streams, resulting in clean water for reuse or environmentally-friendly discharge, and a solid residue suitable for further processing (often to recover valuable components for use elsewhere) or for safe disposal.

Correct analysis is crucial

The composition of wastewater streams varies greatly; certain wastewater sources, such as power plants and boilers with wet gas scrubbing, often contain salts which may be hazardous, valuable, or both. Environmental regulation usually means that treatment is required to reduce or remove such toxic compounds before wastewater can be discharged. Other sources, such as wet flue gas desulfurization, may contain highly soluble calcium and aluminium salts, as well as heavy metals, which are not easily crystallised by evaporation.

The effective design of any ZLD system, and the appropriate pre-treatment processes, is therefore dependent on the correct analysis of the water/waste stream, making it essential to have an accurate analysis of composition, flow rates, chemistry, etc. Without this, any designed solution will fail to deliver the required results, if it works at all.

Energy-efficient evaporation

Vapour compression evaporation is commonly used in ZLD as evaporation can recover up to 95 per cent wastewater as distillate. Any remaining concentrate is further treated physically or chemically to produce solid residues (such as crystals) and water. By running the evaporators at lower pressures, the boiling point of the liquid being treated is reduced. This means that multi-effect evaporation can be made possible; that is, steam from a previous evaporation stage is used as thermal energy in the next stage which works at a lower boiling point. This way, multiple evaporation stages are combined, generating significant energy savings. For many components, crystal precipitation is favoured at lower temperatures, therefore lowering evaporation temperatures helps to increase the solids yield.

The role of heat exchangers

HRS Heat Exchangers is in the final commissioning stage of a ZLD system for an industrial client in Europe. Heat exchangers play a crucial role in reducing the running costs of a ZLD system by utilising heat from process water and other existing sources, and also recapturing heat at the end of the process and reusing it to boost the energy efficiency of the overall ZLD system. Where there is a hazardous liquid waste stream to deal with, then the potential to utilise ZLD techniques as part of the overall treatment solution should definitely be investigated, and HRS staff would be happy to discuss the potential options with you.

1 http://nimkartek.com/blog/zero-liquid-discharge-a-solution-to-zero-discharge-of-hazardous-chemicals/

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