Waitrose, part of The John Lewis Partnership, is the first UK retailer to use renewable natural gas to power tractors at its farm in an industry leading move. It is a significant step towards reaching net zero across their own operations by 2035. The company announced in 2021 that it will use their farm, at the Leckford Estate in Hampshire, to facilitate radical change by experimenting with a variety of environment-friendly agricultural techniques.
James Bailey, Executive Director of Waitrose, said: “Two years ago we challenged ourselves to use Leckford as an experiment in farming best practices, to pave the way for genuine solutions to help conserve our soil, air and water for the future generations, and our biomethane lagoon does just that. An innovative example to help our farm and hopefully other farms, reach net zero.”
Manure produced by the 500 cattle kept at the farm is harvested and upgraded on site, producing fugitive biomethane. This not only fuels machinery, but significantly reduces the carbon footprint.
A pioneering facility has been built to provide sustainable fuel which will help cut down up to 1,300 tons of carbon per year. The innovative covered lagoon – which is the size of two and a half Olympic swimming pools – holds the energy rich fluid separated from farmyard manure. The solid material is extracted as a digestate which is rich in nutrients and can be used as fertilizer for crops.
The fluid which enters the lagoon emits gases, including methane. As the decomposition process happens, these are trapped and cleaned and upgraded in the system to biomethane, in turn this is used to power CNG tractors. It is the largest plant of its type in the UK.
The process is truly circular, from grazing cows in the field to producing manure, which then captures the methane gas and refines it. This process leaves behind a natural fertiliser, which will be pumped directly back onto the fields. The monitoring system for the facility is also powered by solar panels on farm buildings.
The facility was designed and built by Cornwall based clean energy experts Bennamann in conjunction with New Holland tractors.
Andrew Hoad, Head of Leckford Estate, commented: “This is a new era for Leckford Estate farm. We understand the positive impact farming can have on addressing the effects of climate change and nature loss. Reduction in use of fossil fuels and capturing fugitive methane are an important part of us becoming Carbon Net Zero as a farm, ahead of our 2035 Partnership goal.”
“We are working as three British based businesses to deliver industry leading research and development into more sustainable ways of using farm animal waste and are excited about this technology and its potential to help farmers become more energy independent, pave the way to becoming carbon neutral and support net zero targets. Working with like-minded organizations is key to achieving the shift we need to make and we see collaborations like this as incredibly important,” he commented.
Michael Simpson, Bennamann CEO added: “This partnership and investment into cutting-edge farming practices like our bespoke biomethane facility, has enabled the development of our next generation retrofit methane capture ecosystem. JLP’s support has been instrumental in the development of our new retrofit slurry cover and methane capture technology, making it even more affordable to the small to medium sized dairy farmers, who can generate additional revenue or cost savings through the sale of excess biomethane or making their own 100% natural fertilizer as a byproduct. This partnership demonstrates bold leadership by one of the UK’s most iconic retailers of how we can get to net zero, showcasing agriculture as the solution and not the problem.”
Alistair Walshaw, New Holland UK Alternative Propulsions Manager, stated: “We are really proud of this collaboration with Waitrose, such an important partner in our mission to deliver sustainable, clean solutions in agriculture. New Holland has a long-standing commitment to sustainability and our Clean Energy Leader strategy started back in 2006.”
“Today, we are happy to see that more and more partners are supporting this important cause, providing a way to maximise productivity while reducing the farms’ carbon footprint. The collaboration with Waitrose is a strong statement that we hope others will follow, and will raise more and more awareness on the importance of sustainability in farming.”
Source: John Lewis Partnership