A dairy processing company in the UK is trying to develop long-term use of ‘poo power’ instead of diesel to run some of its milk tankers on in a bid to cut its carbon footprint.

Farmer owned Arla said it also wanted to further use this renewable energy source more in homes and ‘patteries’ (charged batteries) following a successful trial last year.

That trial saw the company convert the manure from 500 cows into 27,000kg of biofuel to power its delivery trucks and it then developed a fuel station on one of the farms that supplied Arla with milk.

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Arla said the three-month trial reduced its carbon impact by 80 tonnes during that time period, helping boost the company’s sustainability efforts.

This trial marked the first time farmers were able to send their cow manure to a nearby anaerobic digestion plant where it was broken down into different components, including clean bio-methane, and converted into usable fuel.

The trial made Arla the first UK business to use waste from its own suppliers to generate power for its fleet. The process also created nutrient rich, natural fertiliser which Arla farmers can put back on to farms, making it an unique entirely closed loop production cycle.

The three-month test involved two special Arla tankers that had been adapted to run on biofuel transporting milk between dairy processing sites. Together they covered around 90,000km and helped reduce Arla’s carbon impact by 80 tonnes, the equivalent to 23 car journeys around the world.

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Proving that muck is just as important as milk, Arla used manure from 500 cows, which is around 190 tonnes of slurry each week, to create the 27,000kg of biofuel to power the trial vehicles.

Arla launched the UK’s first cow-powered fuel station on one of the farms taking part in Winslow, Bucks. Arla farmer Ian Barker, who was involved in the trial, said: “Many of us recognise how valuable a cow’s milk is, but many aren’t aware that manure is just as important.

“Processing cow manure in this manner provides us with a limitless source of energy, plus the digestate, or solid matter, left over after the process makes an even richer fertiliser for my fields, so it’s a win-win.”

Graham Wilkinson, Arla’s agricultural director, said: “Using manure from our farms is helping us reduce our waste and rely less on air-polluting fossil fuels so it’s a no brainer for us. With the help of our farmers and partners, we have a fully closed loop which at scale, could be revolutionary in helping fuel a greener future.”

Arla is using the trial to assess opportunities for scaling up cow pat-powered transport opportunities across its value chain and for other uses of energy.

Arla said: “The trial we ran last year on the tankers was really successful but replicating this at scale takes a lot of time and investment. We will be increasing our work in this area, but like our work on renewable energy using cow muck, to scale we need a much broader conversation with government around the UK’s energy infrastructure.”

Arla is also investigating the opportunities of using the slurry from its 460,000 cows to power over 1.2m UK homes each year. It has also created AA-size rechargeable ‘cow patteries’ as an extra renewable energy solution.