Anaerobic digestion (AD) can play a key role in sustainable farming, allowing farmers to recycle organic wastes such as manures, slurries, and vegetable off-cuts and process purpose-grown energy crops into renewable heat and power, clean transport fuel for farm vehicles, and nutrient-rich digestate biofertilisers, crucial to improving soil health.
In the UK, with the future of support for farmers increasingly unclear as the UK prepares to leave the European Union, AD offers a vital option for diversifying a farm’s income. The current £3.5bn Common Agricultural Policy funding is being reallocated and will include AD in future as part of the UK’s environmental objectives. In addition to creating 35,000 rural jobs, this will help to increase agricultural productivity through restoring soils and improving crop yields. Coordinating UK farming and energy policy on AD could help stabilise farmers’ incomes, reduce costs and cut greenhouse gas emissions, whilst improving the UK’s energy security.
Global deployment of AD technology in agriculture, from intensive farming in the USA to small-scale applications in remote African villages, could play a major role in supporting the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals: Goal No 2 to improve soil quality to sustain agriculture and achieve food security Goals No 7 and 13 to generate clean energy from wastes and crops to support local economies and mitigate climate change and Goal No 15 to help to protect ecosystems, halt land degradation and biodiversity loss. Advances in AD technologies can also significantly contribute to and complement the growth of the agri-tech sector worldwide.