Arla launches UK Innovation Farm, announces latest research trial

Arla’s on-farm R&D facility was formally launched last week, showcasing a range of cutting-edge trials that are testing the tech of the future.

The Arla UK 360 ‘Innovation Farm’ near Aylesbury is run by the Dyson family and serves as a central hub to host or participate in the cutting-edge trials. Arla is undertaking to lead the dairy agenda, to assess the risk, costs and benefits before sharing this with Arla farmers. The farm will also be used as an education centre for Arla to share its learnings with other Arla members, foodservice and retail customers and industry stakeholders.

Major projects currently in progress include:

  1. The Happy Cow Measure: Development of an animal well-being measure together with FAI and Nedap. Identifying and exploring positive behaviours that can be automatically monitored for dairy cattle to create a “Happy Cow Measure” based on automated cow behavioural monitoring (using tags, collars, sensors and location data).
  2. Automation of Animal Outcome Data: HerdVision scanners (by agri-tech firm Agsenze) are being trialled in an industry-leading study that aims to monitor cow lameness and body condition more consistently, objectively and effectively.

The latest Arla UK 360 trial at the farm sees European agricultural technology business, N2 Applied, carrying out its first large-scale commercial trial of a breakthrough technology that minimises harmful emissions and enriches the nutrient content of slurry. Using a scientific technique that applies just air and electricity to the liquid waste material, the N2 Unit can significantly reduce the harmful emissions caused by slurry production in the UK.

It does this by fixing nitrogen from the air and absorbing it into the slurryAs a result, methane and ammonia is essentially trapped within the slurry,reducing the amount of ammonia and methane released into the air.The project will assess how practical it is for the technology to be adopted as part of the ongoing daily practice of running a farm.

“This technology has potentially profound implications for the UK’s dairy food sector. The ability to cut slurry-based ammonia emissions offers a pathway to practical testing of methane emission reduction, and a giant leap towards the industry becoming net-zero and helping to tackle climate change,” said Carl Hansson, CEO, N2 Applied.

“We have high hopes for the trial, and thank both Arla Foods and the Dyson family for their collaboration in investigating the potential. We know that trials of the technology elsewhere in Europe have seen ammonia and methane emissions being greatly reduced, Nitrogen Use Efficiency (NUE) increased and improvements in soil health and crop yield, Here, we are assessing how the Unit performs in reducing emissions when it is installed in a commercial dairy farm” he said.

“2050 is a long way off, but to meet our goals of carbon net zero farming we need to start looking at technologies that can help us now”, explains Alice Swift, agriculture director, Arla Foods UK. “Our Innovation Farm allows us to work with partners like N2 to investigate the feasibility of cutting-edge technology like this on our farmers’ behalf, to see what’s possible and what might be commercially feasible for our farms in the future. This trial shows there is indeed technology out there to help us meet our goals – but we need to find ways of making these work on a practical and affordable level on farm, which is what this project will explore.”

Provisional N2 trials suggest the treated slurry may also benefit crop yields as a fertiliser due to its nitrogen content and Nitrogen Use Efficiency (NUE) . Therefore, the Arla UK 360 project is also undertaking three independently verified crop testing projects comparing crop performance using slurry that has been processed through the plasma reactor versus untreated slurry, with results expected later in the year.

Alongside these, there are a range of other research projects taking place both at the Arla Innovation Farm and Arla 360 Farms across the UK, made in part possible through the support of Morrison’s and Aldi to the Arla UK 360 programme. These primarily focus on areas future development in farm practice, including animal welfare and the environment. It is Arla’s long-term intention that knowledge gained from these projects is shared to help make both Arla dairy farms and the wider industry more sustainable.

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