Study: fertiliser products from animal manure can replace traditional fertiliser

Manure validation initiatives of Danone and FrieslandCampina: major emission reduction, important step towards sustainable circular agriculture

3 December 2019

The European Joint Research Centre (JRC) has presented the results of the two-year SAFEMANURE study. The results of this study provide criteria which recycled fertilisers should comply with in order to be able to replace traditional fertiliser. Besides, with this technology dairy farmers can reduce the CO₂ and ammonia emissions at their farms by respectively 3% and 40%. An important step towards circular agriculture, according to Danone Belgium and FrieslandCampina, which are actively engaged in this subject.

The European Joint Research Centre (JRC) conducted this study by order of DG ENVIRONMENT, the Directorate-General of the European Commission responsible for the environment.

From waste to basic material
FrieslandCampina and Danone are working together on the broad subject of manure in the Netherlands and Belgium. They also do this by targeting at innovative technology: FrieslandCampina with Jumpstart, Danone with Wings, always in close cooperation with the dairy farmers. 

Extra earnings model
Ynte de Vries, Manager Farm Energy at FrieslandCampina about Jumpstart, which generates green energy and mineral concentrate from manure: “The Dairy farmers and the continuity of their farms are central at FrieslandCampina. The roll-out of Jumpstart units is in full swing in the Netherlands. At farms with sufficient manure (a minimum of about 175 dairy cows) a good financial business case is feasible. The permission to use the Jumpstart mineral concentrate as a replacement for fertiliser adds an extra earnings model. With Jumpstart the farmer can generate additional income and at the same time make his farm future-proof as well. The Jumpstart programme is partly facilitated by our business partnership with Danone and we are proud of this.”

See in this vlog how Energy generated from manure is possible already at this very moment. Recognition of Jumpstart mineral concentrate as fertiliser could be a next step towards circularity and make an extra contribution to the Jumpstart earnings model, which would make Jumpstart feasible for dairy farms with fewer cows.

Reduce CO2 footprint
Wings, a project of Danone in cooperation with the Flemish Coordination Centre for Manure Processing (VCM = Vlaams Coördinatiecentrum Mestverwerking) and a pilot group of dairy farmers, tested an installation that processes excess manure into fertiliser. Marion Bloemendal, Project Manager at Danone Belgium: “Our Belgian dairy farmers are versatile entrepreneurs who aim at sustainable production. We want to support them in this: by reusing manure as a basic material we make an important move towards circular agriculture. This is good for the planet and good for an economically strong agriculture sector.”

The technologies tested within Wings and Jumpstart enable the dairy farmers to reduce their CO2 footprint by 3-20% and the ammonia emission by 40-45%.

Study results
The study defines the criteria which fertilisers recycled from manure, such as ammonium salts and mineral concentrates, must comply with in order to be applied above 170 kg animal nitrogen per hectare per year. The study demonstrated that, among others, ammonium salts from ‘stripping-scrubbing installations’ and mineral concentrates resulting from reversed osmosis offer a lot of potential to be recognised as replacements for fertilisers in the future. This study shows that the environmental impact or public health risks are negligible when using nitrogen fertilisers recycled from manure, named ‘RENURE’ in the report, if the set criteria are complied with. The researchers conclude that the use of recycled fertilisers offers opportunities for better closing cycles and for more efficient use of basic and auxiliary materials within the European food chain.

Next steps: scalability and regulation
At this moment, the technologies for converting animal manure into fertiliser are not broadly applicable yet for two reasons. Firstly, the technologies for nutrient recovery are relatively expensive. Additional research is required to make these technologies affordable. Secondly, the products resulting from ‘nutrient recovery’ are not recognised as fertiliser yet according to the European Nitrates Directive.

The SAFEMANURE project shows that there really are products with the potential to obtain an ‘end-of-manure’ statute in the future, which is of major importance for the next step towards circular agriculture. This is confirmed by Danone and FrieslandCampina and therefore they call on policymakers to take action as soon as possible to further accelerate the development and implementation of such technologies.