North East farmers urged to use new fertiliser from commercial waste

Farmers in the North East are being encouraged to use a new fertiliser made at the region's first anaerobic digestion (AD) plant in Newton Aycliffe

A tractor spreading fertiliser
A tractor spreading fertiliser

North East farmers are being encouraged to use a new fertiliser made from commercial food waste and said to be rich in nutrients.

Company Emerald Biogas, which is producing the digestate at the region’s first anaerobic digestion (AD) plant in Newton Aycliffe, is keen to work with farmers within the area to supply the product for use on their land.

The digestate contains nitrogen, phosphate, potash, magnesium and sulphur among other organic materials and trace elements, all of which are essential for enhancing the soil condition and quality of agricultural land.

It is created when organic biodegradable materials, such as food waste, are broken down during the AD process. As there is no oxygen in the process tanks, anaerobic bacteria feed on the organic waste, producing methane gas, and leaving minerals and in-organic materials such as indigestible fibres behind.

These organic materials and trace elements are not commonly found in traditional bagged fertilisers.

The AD process converts organic nitrogen to ammonium nitrate, which can be more easily absorbed by plants and crops, and the digestate is proven to infiltrate the soil more readily, due to low viscosity, reducing the leaching of nitrogen into the atmosphere.

Emerald Biogas director Ian Bainbridge said: “Our facility is the first of its kind in the region and our vision is to ensure the valuable commodities created by the plant – the energy and digestate – are fully utilised locally.

“We are already contracted to supply a number of farms with the product and are looking for more local farmers, ideally those within a 15-mile radius of the plant, to make contact to learn more about the benefits of using the digestate and how we can work with them.

“From a quality perspective, digestate derived from AD has been certified by the Soil Association for use in the treatment of organic crops.

“In terms of value, our product is competitive when compared to similar traditional fertilisers, but has the advantage of additional organic compounds and materials which are of significant benefit to the land.”

Formed in 2009, Emerald Biogas is owned by three partners with a wealth of experience in agriculture and recycling. Antony and Adam Warren are the owners of John Warren ABP, a long-established food and animal by-products recycling business.

Together with Ian Bainbridge’s farming, land and resource management Agricore, they will provide the region with a beneficial sustainable resource.

It is envisaged that the £8m facility will recycle more than 50,000 tonnes of food waste each year from across the North East generating 1.56MW of energy – enough to supply 2,000 homes – in addition to producing the digestate.

John Warren ABP manages the collection for Emerald Biogas. With more than three generations of waste management experience, the company offers a food disposal service at Hamsterley and has progressed into the next generation of food processing.

The AD site is located at Emerald Biogas Energy Park, Preston Road, Aycliffe Industrial Estate, where waste supplied from local authorities, food manufacturers and retailers from Northumberland down to York and across to Cumbria will be processed.

Agricore is a new company, set up by Ian Bainbridge of farming company J&S Bainbridge, which operates an arable, pig fattening and feed manufacturing business from Winston in County Durham.

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