With new waste regulations effective under the Agricultural Environmental Management Code of Practice, the need to navigate nutrient management alternatives has become a mobilizing force behind B.C.’s dairy industry.
For farms producing more manure phosphorus than their crops require, a surplus of phosphorus in the soil becomes inevitable, leaving land application of dairy manure increasingly untenable.
According to Carla Soutar, producer services manager with the BC Dairy Association, centrifuges offer a potential solution long sought by industry.
“By using high speeds to create centrifugal force, they separate solids from liquids, extracting phosphorus from dairy manure into a solid product which then becomes cheaper and easier to transport off the farm,” she explains.
Despite the potential benefits offered by centrifugal technology and its increasing use in European and U.S. dairies, on-farm application in B.C. remains limited.
“One key barrier is that no centrifuge has ever been designed to address the size and needs of the B.C. dairy industry, which features uniquely small farms,” Soutar points out. “For the nearly 500 dairy farms in B.C., the average herd size is 135 animals per farm, meaning there are only a handful of dairy farms large enough to conceivably purchase a full-size centrifuge.”
Determined to fill the gap and find a feasible nutrient management tool for B.C. dairy farmers, Valid Manufacturing approached the Investment Agriculture Foundation of BC to explore funding opportunities. With support through the Canada-BC Agri-Innovation Program, Valid was able to undertake two projects that would allow it to design, manufacture and field-test a dewatering centrifuge tailored to the needs of B.C.’s dairy industry.
“Thanks to project funding we’ve developed a reliable, affordable, B.C.-made nutrient management option designed in close consultation with local producers,” reports Valid’s corporate development lead, Chad Shipmaker, adding that additional funding for on-farm testing and field demonstration was essential for moving the centrifuge closer to market.
According to Shipmaker, the new centrifuge can process raw manure, eliminating the need for additional de-watering technologies. While additional testing is planned for 2020, results so far have achieved phosphorous extraction ranging from 40 to 60 per cent during on-farm trials.
“We’re excited to pilot technology to help facilitate enhanced environmental sustainability for B.C.’s dairy industry,” he says. “Not only can a centrifuge help dairy farmers reduce excess soil phosphorus levels and conform with nutrient management regulations, but it could also enable dairy farmers to increase their herd size without having to purchase or rent additional land.”
Considering the substantial and increasingly timely benefits the centrifuge offers, many in the dairy industry are eagerly awaiting its release.
“While steps towards technology adoption are still underway, this is exactly the type of work the province’s dairy sector supports,” says Soutar. “The BC Dairy Association is always looking at ways to ensure dairy farming delivers a positive impact on our community.”
This project is supported by the Canadian Agricultural Partnership, a federal-provincial-territorial initiative. The program is delivered by the Investment Agriculture Foundation of BC.