ASB Farmsmarts - the power of poo

This story originally appeared in The Country as part of the ASB Farmsmarts series with NZME, and the NZ Herald.

Experience, says John Scandrett with dry humour, is what you get just after you really need it. He’s talking about the two years he, Fortuna Group and others have spent developing a system that generates electricity and hot water from cow poo in New Zealand conditions.

An environmental game-changer, the system’s development at Glenarlea Farm, one of Fortuna Group’s farms in Southland, is significant for two main reasons: 1) If it works in Southland’s cooler climate, it can work anywhere in New Zealand and 2) it potentially enables New Zealand to lose its unwanted crown as one of the world’s worst (or the worst) emitters of methane on a per capita, per year basis.

Each cow produces about the same amount of greenhouse gases as a car and the concept, from NIWA (implemented along with EECA and Dairy Green Ltd) channels cowshed effluent into a big pond where methane is encouraged to develop.

Scandrett, an agriculture and engineering consultant for Dairy Green, says biogas has been around for centuries. The ability to make gases from organic matter in the absence of oxygen has been harnessed in Europe, particularly Germany, where thousands of biogas farms produce an estimated 2.5 per cent of that country’s electricity.

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