A $3m pilot project trialling manure-to-energy technology in the US has been agreed by a Irish agri-tech firm.
BHSL, based in Ballagh, Co Limerick, has agreed a $3m (€2.1m) project with the State of Maryland in the US.
It will trial pioneering manure-to-energy technology aimed at transforming the environmental impact of the global poultry industry.
BHSL’s technology converts poultry manure into energy, which is then used to provide heating for future batches of chicks, or sold back into the electricity grid.
It is the only system available that meets both US and European Union environmental regulations.
It already has over 110,000 operational hours on British farms. Last week, the patented BHSL Energy Centre was shipped from Ballagh and will be fully operational by October.
Maryland is one of six US states that surround Chesapeake Bay, where, after decades of intensive agriculture, many fields are overloaded with phosphorus.
Over 1bn chickens accounting for 12% of total US production are produced in the region each year. That generates an estimated 1.2m tonnes of manure.
This is contributing pollutants that flow into the bay, causing severe environmental problems including algal bloom and damage to fish and shellfish stocks.
Ann Swanson, executive director at the Chesapeake Bay Commission, said BHSL’s solution has the potential to play a very significant role in reducing levels of pollution in the bay.
“We have been looking for options to address the bay’s environmental challenges while supporting the farm community.
“If it works, it will be one of those win-win situations, with a financial benefit to the farmer and a positive environmental impact,” she said. The State of Maryland has provided $1m funding to support this pilot project, with the balance of the $3m investment funded by BHSL.
Declan O’Connor, BHSL chief executive, said the potential size of the US market opportunity is conservatively estimated at over $500m.
“Our unique solution can both reduce costs and increase revenue for the farmers while solving the environmental challenge they face. We are very excited about the potential to grow our sales in the US following the State of Maryland demonstration.”
His brother Jack O’Connor, company founder and chief technology officer, who designed the patent-protected system, said BHSL is now aggressively ramping up its sales operations.
“We see a major global opportunity to export our product and add jobs to our team of 28 who already work in the business,” he said.
The system will be based on Bob Murphy’s 112-acre farm in Rhodesdale, Maryland, which produces 3,650 tonnes of manure annually.
Historically, this was trucked to other farms for use as fertiliser. But that is not now seen as a long-term solution as other farms, like Murphy’s, will soon have soil phosphorus concentrations that exceed agreed limits.
Supporting the pilot project is Mountaire, the poultry company for which Bob Murphy’s farm grows chickens. It is the seventh largest chicken producer in the US, selling over 330m birds each year.
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