Study results: buy out farmers, or invest in nitrogen crackers?

The nitrogen problem in the Netherlands isn’t just bad, it’s really bad. The measures recently announced by the government are mainly aimed at buying out farmers. However, that isn’t the only way forward according to Lise van Dijk, who recently completed her study into reducing nitrogen in Salland (an area in Overijssel, the Netherlands). She believes some really interesting solutions are available. ‘If all farmers started using innovative concepts, such as the Gazoo nitrogen cracker, ‘If all farms started using innovative concepts, it wouldn’t be necessary to buy out any farmer’ says Lise, discussing the study and her findings.

Reducing nitrogen in Salland
In addition to being a dairy farmer, Lise is also a 4th-year student at Aeres University of Applied Sciences, and will graduate at the end of this academic year. During the last year of her course, she followed an internship at JOZ, and has been employed at the company since the end of June as a Junior Advisor and Data Specialist. During her internship, Lise conducted a study into the possibilities of reducing nitrogen in the Salland area.

‘One of the area teams in the Province of Overijssel asked how nitrogen emissions in Salland could be reduced by 30%,’ says Lise. ‘To answer this, I launched a study in March 2022. The results of this study are very interesting, especially considering the measures that have been announced nationally.’

Buy out farmers or invest in nitrogen cracker?
Lise studied total nitrogen emissions in Salland. To do so, she used figures from various sources, including the Province of Overijssel database, among other things. ‘I looked at the number of dairy farms and the average emissions per farm,’ she says. ‘One way of drastically reducing nitrogen emissions is to buy out farms, but an alternative is to invest in the Gazoo nitrogen cracker. In my study, I compared these two options. What did I find out? The difference in costs is enormous.’

‘If the Dutch government were to focus purely on buying out farms to reduce nitrogen emissions by 30%, it would have to buy out 146 dairy farms and 17 pig farms in Salland,’ explains Lise. ‘That would cost the government no less than €581 million just for the land (based on an average price of €63,700 per hectare) and pig rights. On the other hand, installing Gazoos at multiple farms to reduce nitrogen emissions by the same percentage would only cost the government €91 million.’

‘If the government does buy out farms, it also has to cough up the costs for the livestock, buildings, and things such as phosphate rights, in addition to costs for the land,’ Lise continues. ‘I didn’t include these kinds of costs in the study, because it’s virtually impossible to calculate an average due to the enormous diversity in the buildings. This actually means that the costs in the event of a buyout would be much higher than the €581 million already mentioned, so investing in Gazoos would be even more attractive.’

Trust and responsibility
In April, Lise presented the results of her research to the Salland area team. The team was very positive about the results, she says. ‘It’s not clear yet if the Province of Overijssel will do anything with the results, but I did manage to open the eyes of the area team, and my colleagues at JOZ.

‘Speaking of those colleagues, I’m really happy that I was able to do an internship at JOZ, and that I can continue to work with these pleasant people. I ended up in a small close-knit team whose work is entirely focused on the nitrogen cracker. I was in touch with mechanics, drafters, software engineers, the project coordinator, and the product manager. All these team members are extremely committed, and have given me the opportunity to tackle my work independently right from the outset. I was immediately given a lot of confidence and responsibility. I’ve never felt like an intern at JOZ, but as a real employee.’

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