Scottish farmer invites others to hear about AD project

National Farmers Union (NFU) Scotland’s ground-breaking Renewables Development Initiative (RDI) will open its 2015 programme of events, with a look at a new anaerobic digestion plant set up on a Hawick farm.

The Shanks family have farmed at Standhill since 1951, producing milk, beef, lamb, arable crops and, more recently, a range of distinct cheeses. After completing a Nuffield scholarship, Jim Shanks realised the need for farmers to diversify and use natural resources to create other useful products, while still being able to complement the existing business. Following visits to Europe to look at the technology, Jim has now gone through the process of planning, building and operating his own anaerobic digestion plant.

The visit is part of the Union’s three-year RDI project, designed to provide sound, independent advice to farmers and land managers across Scotland on renewable energy. Through a programme of on-farm events, co-ordinated by Thomas McMillan of Smiths Gore, the initiative has already shown hundreds of Scottish farmers energy projects that are contributing to farm businesses or are at the planning stage. On-farm days held in 2014 looked at wind, solar, biomass, gasification, hydro, biodiesel, heat pumps and anaerobic digestion. Workshops built around the events have brought in experts to cover elements such as finance, construction, grid connection and community schemes.

Speaking ahead of his event, Jim Shanks said: “Anaerobic digestions is not for everyone and it is becoming increasingly difficult to justify the cost now that the feed in tariffs are coming down. However, if you are a large producer of dung or slurry, and use green bedding, then AD does have the potential to succeed.

“The good news is that the technology is working and exceeding budgets and expectations.  The main benefits have included an increased and diversified income for the farm business, protection against rising energy prices and increased fertiliser value. However, it is a 20-year commitment, requires staff resource and it must be managed so don’t enter into it lightly!

“I believed in the benefits that renewables can bring to farms and I fought like a dog to get what I’ve got. It was Scottish Power who, in the end, got me a viable grid offer to make this project work.

Source: NFU Scotland