The three schemes will be based at Coleg Cambria Llysfasi and pioneer new technology aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the agriculture sector.
Funded by the Welsh Government via its Whole System Business Research Innovation for Decarbonisation Challenge (WBRID), and supported by North Wales Economic Ambition Board, the projects are:
- A collaboration between M-SParc on Anglesey, the college, and businesses to explore the potential for drones to identify on-land issues such as weed growth. The second phase of the scheme includes research into how drones could communicate with a rover on the ground to target issues remotely, a dual-concept application.
- Promar International, based in Cheshire, is developing a bilingual carbon footprint resource for farmers in North Wales, where they can go online and input information on the landscape, current meat and milk production systems, potential for tree planting and more. Their carbon footprint will be calculated, and results given, which in turn will encourage best practice and be used on a regional basis to support the industry.
- BioFactory Energy are developing a low-cost, modular Anaerobic Digestion system for small-medium Welsh dairy farms to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from slurry management. A prototype plant is expected to be on-site in the new year that will generate energy for the farm and improve slurry quality for spreading.
The Welsh Government Smart Living WBRID demonstrators or ‘challenges’ apply the tested principles of Small Business Research Initiative schemes. These will run in several Welsh regions until late Spring with benefits including reduced carbon emissions, energy savings and business economic support with the testing of new technology, products, systems and processes.
Welsh Government Deputy Minister for Climate Change Lee Waters recently visited Llysfasi to see for himself the range of leading technologies and innovative solutions in development.
He said: “We’ve all got to quickly adapt to the challenge of understanding what achieving Net Zero emissions means for the way we go about things.
“The existing work being done at Llysfasi shows that the action we need to take to tackle carbon can also bring about much wider benefits. I’m pleased our Smart Living initiative is trialling new ways of doing things that can be used right across Wales.”
The Challenge projects will provide significant input into the Net Zero Farm Centre at Llysfasi, a centre of excellence which will form part of the Ambition Board’s Agri-food and Tourism programme.
Project Manager George Fisher says progress on all three schemes marks an exciting time for agriculture in North Wales; he believes there is a real appetite for education and growth among the farming community.
The industry is pivotal to North Wales, employing 7% of the workforce and contributing more than £370m to the economy each year.
“We want to take farmers on this journey with us, as we look to embrace advances in technology to become more sustainable as a sector,” he said.
“These pioneering ideas will play a big part in that – I’m delighted to see them move forward and pleased they have received such significant support from WBRID. It’s a real commitment from Welsh Government and will have a positive impact for years to come.”
Following this phase, George hopes all three projects will be in position to move forward on a commercial basis and be utilised by landowners and farmers as they look to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and adopt precision agriculture approaches.
Lois Shaw, M-SParc’s Business Support Officer, says collaboration between the organisations involved will be a huge positive for the area, adding: “It’s great to see businesses from the region benefit from the emerging agri-tech sector.
“We’ve been able to secure a collaboration between two companies on Anglesey to drive this project forward and are now looking forward to the potential for commercialisation of the project in 2022.”
Jon Blake, BioFactory’s Chief Commercial Officer, was in agreement, and said: “The collaboration with Coleg Cambia Llysfasi has been instrumental in enabling the development of our micro-AD (Anaerobic Digestion) technology, which is much needed in the sector and will enable more Welsh farmers to access the benefits of AD in the drive for net zero farming.”
Tom Gill, Head of Sustainability at Promar International, said they too are excited at the prospect of leading a revolution in the way agriculture operates in the future.
“Promar is pleased to continue to support Coleg Cambria Llysfasi to devise and implement its net zero ambitions,” he said.
“To do this, Promar will be supporting project partners to understand options which will contribute towards maintaining farm productivity performance whilst identifying climate reducing actions which will be implemented over the next two, five and 10 years.
“In addition, the tools to do this will be made available to all livestock farmers across North Wales (and wider) with the support of an industry representative group.”
For more information, visit www.cambria.ac.uk and www.northwaleseab.co.uk.