Agri-tech company kicks off poultry waste to energy project

BHSL's Bob Murphy (centre) with his two sons

Irish agri-tech company BHSL has launched a $3m pilot project in the US state of Maryland, aimed at reducing the environmental challenges of the region’s poultry industry.

Governor of Maryland Larry Hogan was in attendance for the official launch on a farm owned by Bob Murphy, where the project is being piloted.

The technology works by converting poultry manure into energy, which is then used to provide heating for future batches of chicks, or for electricity generation, which can be used to cool sheds in the hotter summer months. The performance of the unit will be closely monitored by researchers from the University of Maryland.

Murphy said: “It’s early days, but my sons and I have been really pleased with the impact of the BHSL unit. The conditions in the chicken house have significantly improved, with lower humidity and ammonia levels. We think that, once we complete the pilot project, the data will encourage more farmers to consider this technology. I strongly believe that with the restrictions the state is putting on how farmers use poultry litter, the BHSL solution is our ticket for turning manure into energy. It’s a win-win for all.

Manure to save planet

Joe Bartenfelder, Maryland secretary of agriculture, said: “We are excited and proud that Maryland farmers are stepping up to find alternatives for the utilisation of manure to address environmental issues, while improving the farm’s bottom line. A great deal of credit goes to the Murphy family for taking the time and risk involved in being the test case for a promising new way of doing business.

According to BHSL, over 300 million chickens are produced in Maryland each year, and around 1 billion in the wider Chesapeake Bay area, representing 12% of total US production. This produces an estimated 1.2 million tonnes of manure, which is contributing pollutants that flow into the Bay, causing severe environmental problems including algal bloom and damage to fish and shellfish stocks. Currently the manure is trucked to provide fertiliser for crops but, due to the high phosphorus loading, in many areas of the state this is now prohibited.

Denis Brosnan, chairman of BHSL, said: “Farmers using our system can transform the environment in their chicken sheds, and enjoy improved efficiencies and profitability.

We have a technological solution that can help address the pressing challenge of cleaning up Chesapeake Bay and reducing the impact of manure from the poultry industry. The State’s support for this pilot project has been invaluable and we hope that more can be done to help farmers who want to use this technology to address an important environmental issue.

Sean Davis, regional director North America at Enterprise Ireland added: “The agri-tech sector is a really exciting and fast-growing area that we have identified as a priority to support. BHSL’s technology addresses production efficiencies and profitability for agricultural producers and integrators. It can also have a large impact on sustainability and the environment.

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