New Vision for the Dairy Sector

Dutch dairy industry set to eliminate waste and achieve climate neutrality by 2020

History tells us that it was the Neolithic people who first witnessed the start of cattle milking for human consumption. 6,000 years later, it is the Dutch people who are witnessing the start of waste-free, climate-neutral dairy operations – a huge step forward for this vital food sector.

Milk remains one of the most nutrient rich food sources we need for healthy human development. Reducing the amount of waste created in its production helps make our food systems more sustainable and ready to face the demands of our growing population.

Climate Neutral by 2020
The Dutch dairy industry has ambitions to achieve a climate-neutral dairy chain by 2020 while producing 20% more milk products, but they also face mounting pressure to ensure the safe disposal of manure. In fact, without a solution to this problem, the industry cannot grow.

This is the context for a natural solution currently under development at Royal HaskoningDHV. Our solution not only assists the industry in achieving its climate-neutral goal, but also deals specifically with the manure issue; turning it from waste to a highly valuable product.

From Waste Flow to Product Flow
“It was very clear that without achieving effective manure digestion, the Dutch dairy industry could not achieve its goal in becoming climate neutral,” said Wil Duivenvoorden, Business Development Director Industry, Energy & Mining. “The key was in getting an industrial digester working effectively, and developing a viable business case in parallel.”

Having developed the solution in principle, we have been working with FrieslandCampina, one of the world’s biggest dairy companies, to transform it into reality. We are now in the process of validating the parameters as part of a pilot project with the first demonstration plant expected to be in operation by the end of 2015. It is anticipated the plant will be able to handle 100,000 tonnes of manure every year.

The plant comprises two units. The first is the digester into which the manure is fed to create biogas. The digestate, which remains from this phase, passes through a refining process to extract various fertiliser components which can then be used to tailor-make fertilisers for farmers.

This solution presents an improvement on existing methods for two important reasons. Until now, digestate has been a waste product. Our method turns it from a waste flow to a product flow ensuring there is no waste stream at the end of the process. By extracting the valuable minerals from the digestate, we provide, for the first time, the possibility of ‘on-demand’ fertilisers, refined for specific applications for specific crops. When EU legislation issues relating to manure are solved, this circular approach will enable the dairy industry to eliminate all waste issues caused by manure.
Innovative Systems

In addition to using our CODE™ technology to recover valuable nutrients from the digestate, the plant also incorporates our revolutionary Nereda® wastewater treatment technology. This ensures that the waste water is of a quality suitable to be drained back into the land.

“It is a fascinating project which is generating interest from stakeholders from many directions” says Wil. “It is becoming increasingly clear that we have a really viable opportunity here.  Enthusiasm is growing daily and we have already identified sites for 10 more plants across the Netherlands.”

For more information on this project, please contact Wil Duivenvoorden, wil.duivenvoorde [email protected]