THE UK’s National Pig Centre has signed a partnership deal with Norwegian based N2 Applied in a bid to reduce emissions and help the environment.

N2 Applied has developed plasma technology, a system that reduces the emissions from slurry while at the same time increasing the nutrient content of the slurry, thus leaving a more valuable fertiliser.

The £11m National Pig Centre, in Yorkshire, was opened in late 2019 as a joint venture between the University of Leeds and CIEL, the Centre for Innovation Excellence in Livestock.

It is the UK’s largest and most advanced facility for research and innovation on commercial pig production, focusing on sustainability, nutrition, animal behaviour, health and welfare, with the overall ambition of reducing emissions to support more sustainable farming methods.

N2 Applied had already been researching the abilities of its technology on a number of dairy farms across the UK and beyond but this is the first time that the N2 Unit, has been implemented on a working UK pig farm to assess its broader potential for circular farming.

Previous independent trials elsewhere in Europe have seen emissions of both gases practically eliminated, as have trials by agricultural consultancy, ADAS, in the UK. Grass and wheat yields have also improved markedly in multiple trials through the application of the 'end' material as a sustainable, nitrogen-rich fertiliser.

The assessment of N2 Applied’s plasma technology at the National Pig Centre will explore animal health benefits, soil health improvements and optimising nutrient use efficiency in pig production, with testing mainly focused on the centre’s 440-sow indoor unit.

Beyond reduced ammonia and methane emissions, which contribute to greenhouse gases and are harmful to air quality, methods that improve soil health and recycling of organic waste can facilitate a more circular economy for farmers and food producers.

Carl Hansson, CEO, N2 Applied, said: “While most of the attention around agricultural emissions is focused on dairy cows, pigs make up a substantial portion of overall UK livestock, with approximately one pig for every two cows. The potential of this trial is huge, as the ability to improve management of pig slurry is one of the central aspects of the UK achieving net zero farming between now and 2040.

“By keeping as much ammonia as possible within slurry, we’re able to turn it into nitrogen-rich fertiliser that also means fewer, if any, chemical fertilisers are needed, saving their carbon cost too. Combining this technique with other improved methods offers the prospects of a significant step forward for circular pig farming,” he said.

Using a scientific technique that applies just air and electricity to slurry, the technology within the N2 Unit ‘locks in’ both ammonia and methane to the liquid waste material, producing a nitrogen-rich fertiliser. Treated slurry produced on-farm then has the potential to reduce the need for chemical fertiliser and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Professor Stefan Kepinski, of the Global Food and Environment Institute, University of Leeds, said: “Through research projects like our collaboration with N2 Applied we’re working to help make farming more sustainable, both through better management of slurry and improved financial incentives for farmers.

“Our overarching aim is to lower the environmental footprint of the National Pig Centre whilst driving effective, evidence-based knowledge exchange and commercialisation plans for net zero and regenerative food production systems.”