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Sustainable farming providing opportunities for farm diversification

Agricultural waste can prove a significant liability to farming particularly in the cattle, dairy and poultry sectors.

Anaerobic digestion can provide a holistic solution to the agricultural waste by-product liability on a farming estate. Anaerobic digestion is a natural biological process whereby organic materials (feedstocks) are broken down by bacteria, in the absence of oxygen in sealed containers. The anaerobic process not only produces a high quality odourless organic fertiliser that negates the need for expensive synthetic fertiliser imports but also produces a natural combustible biomethane gas that can be used to provide heating and power for the farm but also an export commodity to the national grid.

More than 90% of farm businesses are family based small and medium sized enterprises, who need to maintain their wider holdings often with additional income from partners and other business opportunities. Total income from farming for example has fallen for the past three years (Source: Defra).

Nationally, 62% of farms already have some form of diversified activity to provide wider economic opportunity to support farming families and the rural economy (Source: Defra).

As farming income continues to be able to support fewer family members, and is impacted by volatility, for example in input prices e.g. energy, product value (milk and wheat) and due to extreme weather events, diversification introduces complementary income streams that helps make farming more robust to market volatility and extreme weather events and therefore securing its long term viability.

Our client Oncoland Limited were keen to exploit this opportunity to diversify their farming operations which suits their farming practices consisting of approximately 3,600 acres of mixed use land, but primarily within the arable, dairy and beef sectors.

Oncoland sought our planning and environmental services in the autumn of 2017 and DHA have recently secured a unanimous decision at Kent County Council Planning Committee for the construction and operation of a large agricultural waste anaerobic digester in the green belt at Horton Kirby, Kent on their behalf. The permitted anaerobic digester will process 37,000 tonnes of agricultural waste per year from the applicants farming estate which will significantly reduce their need to import costly synthetic fertiliser as well as providing heat and power for their hop and grain drying facilities and produce an export commodity to the national grid.

In securing this success for Oncoland, we have worked closely with the planning and economic development departments at local authorities, as well as district and parish councillors, to help ensure that the importance of such projects to the rural and farming economy is fully understood. A full understanding of relevant planning and environmental issues is also essential, with all parties needing to work together to secure an end result that works for everybody.

At DHA, we are always very proud to help assist the rural and farming economy having worked with a number of rural and farming enterprises over the years. Please don't hesitate to contact us to find out how DHA can assist you and your business. 

For more information call 01622 776226 or email:

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