Measuring and reducing individual nitrogen emissions is the best solution for improving sustainability

20 September 2022 | Int. Livestockhousing Guide | JOZ BV

JOZ’s Gazoo nitrogen cracker is the obvious solution for farmers who want or need to become more sustainable, concluded Jorrit Kuperus. His graduation research demonstrated that livestock farmers can measure their individual ammonia emissions in real time, and easily reduce their emissions by 80% with the Gazoo nitrogen cracker. ‘Even without subsidies, the payback period for investing in this equipment can be less than 5 years,’ he says.

More extensive agriculture or more innovation?
After his final year in the Innovative Dairy Chain Management master’s study programme at Van Hall Larenstein, Jorrit graduated this year on the topic of nitrogen reduction. ‘During a module I was following, we were asked to devise a way of making Dutch livestock farming more extensive. I immediately thought: why do we always think in terms of fewer cows, when other solutions are available? My preference was innovation. When JOZ announced that the company wanted to start a study with a graduate into the effectiveness of the Gazoo nitrogen cracker, I immediately knew what I wanted to do.’

Measuring individual emissions in real time
Jorrit has since graduated, and joined JOZ as a Gazoo Technical Advisor. During his graduation research, Jorrit investigated the actual emission factors on various dairy farms using data that he collected via a unique measurement system that was developed at the same time: the Clean Climate Box. ‘We decided to collect the figures we needed ourselves, so we developed a system that uses sensors to measure values such as temperature, ammonia and CO2 in the barn,’ explains Jorrit.

Nitrogen reduction of up to 91%
The  test samples made the actual result of the nitrogen cracker clear at the farms where the research was carried out. The Gazoo works in tandem with a separator. After the separator has divided the manure into a solid fraction and a liquid fraction, the cracker removes the ammonia from the liquid part. The Gazoo cracks the nitrogen through evaporation and the application of a base or heat. 2 products are created during this evaporation process: residual water, and ammonia in gaseous form. In the second part of the process, an acid is added to the volatile ammonia. The ammonia and acid react to produce the end product Biogrow, a liquid fertiliser. ‘I took test samples to measure how much ammonium had evaporated into ammonia. The ammonium reduction in the thin fraction reached levels of as much as 91%. Of course, the reduction actually achievable at each farm depends on a number of factors. One farm might have a higher concentration of ammonium in its manure than another, for example, which makes it easier to achieve better results,’ Jorrit explains. ‘However, the average reduction capacity of 80% in 12 hours claimed by JOZ is easily achievable, as this research proves.’

ROI of less than 5 years
In addition to the reduction capacity of the nitrogen cracker, Jorrit also calculated the return on investment (ROI) of this solution. When can a farmer recoup their investment in a Gazoo nitrogen cracker? ‘A farm with about 200 dairy cows, 70 hectares of land and high manure disposal costs can expect to see rapid payback on the investment in a nitrogen cracker. The BioGrow produced by the Gazoo produces contains 15% non-animal nitrogen, so it reduces a farm’s animal nitrogen surplus. This means farmers don’t have to resort to the very expensive option of having manure collected and disposed of so often. In addition, they don’t have to buy as much fertiliser, because they produce their own. The calculations show that return on investment is easily possible within 5 years.’

Collecting data The Clean Climate 
Box has also proven itself as a promising solution for farms to collect ammonia data independently. Even if no nitrogen cracker is installed, it provides considerable insight into the real-time ammonia emissions per farm. The researcher expects that, within a few years, every dairy farm will have such an ammonia meter in its barn to measure its ammonia emissions. ‘The Clean Climate Box was initially developed as a measuring system for this research, but it has great potential to become a complete product in itself. For this reason, it’s being further developed, so that we can use the Clean Climate Box to monitor real-time ammonia measurements in the future.’

Encourage innovation instead of buying out farms
Innovations that help farmers reduce costs are ready and waiting. ‘We can show how the nitrogen cracker deals with the core of the problem. It removes ammonium from spreadable manure, reducing farms’ ammonia emissions. The reduction a farm can achieve with a nitrogen cracker in the farmyard can even be demonstrated individually. In the near future, I’d like to refine the calculator, so that we can get an even better idea of the potential emission reductions in each situation. The solution to becoming more sustainable lies in innovation.’

Would you like to know more about the results of the research, or the potential reduction in emissions on your farm?

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