Energy scheme expands to drive dairy farm efficiency

Energy cost and efficiency are one of the many challenges the dairy industry faces
Energy cost and efficiency are one of the many challenges the dairy industry faces

The industry's GrowSave scheme will be expanded to include the dairy sector in a move which aims to drive on-farm efficiency.

GrowSave helps agricultural businesses access the latest thinking and established techniques about efficiency, with a focus on energy.

The collaboration between AHDB and NFU Energy has been around for 13 years in the horticulture sector and its latest iteration will include the dairy, pork, cereals and potatoes sectors.

The programme will run for five years, and during the first year a market review will be carried out to identify existing energy efficiency practices, new tech and highlight potential improvements.

Energy cost and efficiency are one of the many challenges the industry faces, alongside requirements to deliver quality products at ever decreasing costs and lower carbon footprints.

AHDB and NFU Energy said these were the themes coming across strongly in discussions with farmers, producers and industry figures so far.

However, both organisations said there was opportunity to meet these challenges, and that the industry was rising to it.

One such example is the work being carried out by the South West Dairy Development Centre at Shepton Mallet, which is carrying out projects on wearable sensor technology, improving cow comfort and health and automated systems to collect data that will improve productivity.

The market review will consider the role of the energy markets and how the changing mix of generation to renewable systems can help to decarbonise the sector.

This could be either indirectly through natural reduction in carbon emissions of grid electricity or directly on farms.

"We’ll explore the current potential for installing renewable technologies, such as solar thermal and PV as well as manipulation of existing solar PV generation and other opportunities for installing renewable energy," AHDB said.

"Most dairy farmers are familiar with the concept of Economy 7 tariffs and managing their consumption to minimise use in more expensive tariff periods.

"Recent market volatility creates the need to present solutions to employ energy storage systems and further reduce energy costs.

"Not all energy storage systems are battery based and opportunities exist to store energy using systems designed to the farm’s requirements."

AHDB and NFU Energy said incorporating heat pumps to meet farm energy needs was an exciting and underutilised technology which may have great potential.

The review, currently in progress, is designed to be used by the GrowSave steering committee - made up of AHDB personnel and industry representatives - to design the forthcoming programme.