By Meyrick Brown

A JOINTLY funded project which will innovatively reduce farm waste and help safeguard the environment was unveiled at the Royal Welsh Show.

This scheme plans to develop a dewatering and purification system to manage slurry.

Driving the project are Coleg Sir Gâr’s Gelli Aur agricultural campus and Power and Water, a Swansea-based company specialising in electrochemical-based water treatments who claim the project will apply innovative and proven concept technology to reduce air and water pollution to reduce the overall volume of slurry by up to 80 per cent.

A de-watering and purification system is used to filter slurry, transforming the water to a suitable quality for recycling or discharging to a clean watercourse. The system will also utilise nutrients from the slurry to produce good quality fertiliser.

John Owen, manager at the Carmarthenshire college’s farm, said: “With the intensification of the dairy industry, slurry management is becoming an increasing issue for farmers and the environment.

“We aim to reduce significantly the risk of air and water pollution at the same time as maximising the recycling nutrient value. This development process will considerably reduce storage of slurry on farms as well as handling costs.

“Efficiently extracting nutrients from manures could save on the cost of commercial fertilisers and reduce serious environmental impact. However poor manure management can cause pollutants, including nutrients, to enter the water cycle through run-off or drainage.”

The project also aims to design, develop and validate economically viable systems that will be made available commercially and used on farms.

Natural Resources Wales (NRW) states that the number of pollution incidents attributed to livestock farms across Wales has fluctuated between 85 and 120 for each of the last six years.

Wet winters and a significant downturn in the dairy market have added to the pressure on the environment and farmers; reducing their capacity to invest in slurry and silage store management and over 60% of the incidents involving pollution during the last three years, not least within the milk field of West Wales.

According to the Natural Resources Wales (NRW) in its “Agricultural Pollution Issues – and the implications for natural resource management” document published last year, agricultural pollution is the third most frequent reason for failing to achieve good status in Wales.

The ongoing agricultural pollution arising from both point and diffuse sources is having a serious detrimental effect on the Welsh environment and impacts on the ability to meet WFD targets under the River Basin Management Programme.

This situation could lead to substantially extending the area currently covered by nitrate vulnerable zones (NVZ).The project has received grant aid through the Welsh Government’s Rural Communities Rural Development Programme 2014-2020, funded by the European Agricultural Fund for rural Development and the Welsh Government.