Minister for Agriculture, Food, and the Marine Charlie McConalogue TD and Minister of State with special responsibility for research and innovation, Martin Heydon TD, announced a €3 million investment in an integrated anaerobic digestion and green biorefining demonstration initiative.
The funding has been jointly awarded to University College Dublin (UCD) and Munster Technological University (MTU) for the further development of climate neutral farming as part of the Farm Zero Carbon research project currently being undertaken on the Shinagh Estates Demonstration Farm in West Cork.
Minister McConalogue said, “farmers will continue to play a lead role in meeting our commitments under the Climate Action Plan with the plan helping to identify new income streams for them. The targets are challenging but deliverable, with Anaerobic Digestion identified as one of the key areas for development.”
“The funding I am announcing demonstrates Government support for the development and demonstration of such technology. It will be used to create an integrated anaerobic digestion and grass biorefinery unit, which will demonstrate the potential to produce local sources of feed and biobased fertiliser with enhanced environmental benefits. This will also show the ability of such technologies to displace emissions from imported feed and fertiliser and offer diversification opportunities for farmers and the agri-food sector.”
Minister Heydon said, “we are investing significantly in research and innovation in the agriculture sector through a wide range of national, European and international initiatives. The investment being announced today will facilitate tangible research, demonstration, and knowledge exchange around the important technologies of anaerobic digestion and green biorefining.”
The Farm Zero C project which will oversee the green biorefining demonstration initiative was the winner of the Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) Zero Emissions Challenge in 2021. The project co-led by BiOrbic, Ireland’s national bioeconomy research centre, and the Carbery Group, a cooperative based in West Cork, aims to create an economically viable, climate neutral dairy farm. The development of an integrated anaerobic digestion and green biorefining demonstration facility offers the opportunity for the project to demonstrate climate action and diversification opportunities. This is done through the development of renewable energy sources and the displacement of off-farm emissions associated with a dairy farm through production of local sources of protein and biobased fertiliser.
Kevin O’Connor, BiOrbic Director and project co-lead said, “the Farm Zero C project hosted by BiOrbic, Bioeconomy SFI Research Centre is delighted to receive funding from DAFM to deploy on-farm grass biorefining and anaerobic digestion facilities at Shinagh. Irish farmers produce high quality food, and this can be complemented with other revenue streams from anaerobic digestion and biorefining such as renewable energy, biobased materials, and bio-actives.”
On behalf of the industry partners Carbery, Enda Buckley, Director of Sustainability said, “Carbery has had a focus since our foundation on creating a circular economy, and we are known for using every part of the milk that we process. As part of that circular model, we have had Anaerobic Digestion (AD) onsite in our plant in Ballineen for more than 40 years. With grass biorefining and AD, we are excited, with the support of the Department, to bring that concept of valorisation, or adding value, into the farming model.”
Munster Technological University (MTU) have played a key role in research carried out in grass biorefineries to date. James Gaffey, Co-Director of the MTU ‘CircBio’ Research Group, welcomed this development in this area, “Munster Technological University and the CircBio Research Group are delighted to be part of this important announcement. We have been leading research on grass biorefinery in close collaboration with UCD, Carbery and other partners over several years, and this work has shown enormous potential to improve the sustainability and value of grass. Given Ireland’s abundance of grassland, the grass biorefinery model represents a replicable model for bioeconomy development, improving feed and energy resilience while bringing new sustainable high-value products to the market.”