31 July 2019
Best in class

Irish organic farming student wins top prize

31 July 2019
HAWL bursaries

Bursaries offered for three-day homoeopathy courses

21 March 2019
In adversity, what are farmers doing to be more resilient?

Opportunities, barriers and constraints in organic techniques helping to improve the sustainability of conventional farming

Energy Self-Sufficiency/Renewable Energy Opportunities on Farms

Whether powering a tractor or heating a farmhouse the use of energy generates both financial and environmental costs to the farming business. The Sustainable Energy session aimed to expose hotspots of high energy use on organic farms and examine possible ways of replacing the financial costs associated with importing energy onto the farm with a financial income generated from producing energy on the farm. As farms are the ideal place on which to produce sustainable energy from sources such as wood biomass, wind, or anaerobic digestion, the environmental impact of agriculture can also be reduced through on farm energy production.

The session began with a talk by Laurence Smith whose research has revealed the typical sources of energy use on organic farms and the efficiency of energy use from different agricultural enterprises in the organic system. This research allows energy factors, including costs to both farmer and environment, to be included in decision making. A major hotspot for energy use on the organic farm is transport and it was suggested that these costs could be reduced through an increase in direct sales. A discussion followed during which one member of the audience argued that, in isolated communities, direct sales might increase transportation costs to the environment.

Three presentations followed which aimed to demonstrate how a farmer might be able to generate sustainable energy. Nick Maskery began by highlighting the potential energy resources available from woodland. The talk revealed that producing energy from wood biomass generates substantially less CO2 than gas or oil based energy. Sam Usiskin followed by demonstrating how wind turbines can provide a farmer with a potential income of 89,400 a year with an initial investment of 500,000. Finally Richard Tomlinson presented a talk on Anaerobic Digestion. With an investment of 207,000, slurry can be converted into cash by harnessing the methane released during fermentation.

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