Poultry production depends upon a reliable source of heat – but poultry operations must also play their part in reducing the carbon footprint of the nation's food supply, so a great deal of investment is now going into switching the sector over to sustainable energy, replacing fossil fuel heating with either wood chip or pellet systems.

A collaborative effort between Clydesdale Bank’s renewable and agricultural divisions has just given big backing to the greening of poultry production in North Yorkshire, facilitating £6 million in funding to secure the acquisition of Richard Maxwell Limited, and accelerate the supply of renewable heating to bespoke poultry sheds. Owning and operating 12MW of biomass boilers, Biomass Group Limited already delivers sustainable heat at a level of 24Gwh per annum, saving in excess of 6000 tonnes of carbon dioxide.

Virgin Money – owner of the Clydesdale Bank – said it was focussing on supporting businesses and individuals in their efforts to reduce greenhouse gases, as transitioning to a low carbon economy will be vital for averting the worst consequences of the climate emergency.

Head of Renewable Energy at Virgin Money, Keith Wilson, said: “As an entrepreneurial organisation that is committed to Net Zero, we believe we have an important role to play in supporting businesses seeking to transition to more sustainable forms of energy. Lending in support of on-site renewable heat generation plays well to our strengths and is rapidly becoming a niche for our team here at Virgin Money, with this transaction being our third, in as many years”.

Upon the announcement of the acquisition, head of Agriculture at Virgin Money, Brian Richardson, said: “This is a great example of how the bank has been able to bring together its specialist knowledge from two distinct divisions to drive the sustainability agenda forward. Being able to bring our in-depth knowledge of the poultry sector and of future markets meant we were able to advise on the sustainability of this long-term project.

"This acquisition will make a real difference on the ground by providing renewable heat generation to large scale poultry producers, who are aware of the impact of fossil fuels to their climate emissions. This is great for the sector, indicating the direction of travel and what needs to be done to prepare for the future.

“It’s clear that now, and into the future, food production is going to be all about green credentials," added Mr Richardson. "It will continue to rise in importance for consumers and helping industry leaders deliver on the Net Zero ambition is a core goal of our financing strategy.”

The company involved is one of the UK’s largest poultry integrators, serving the chicken and turkey market and supplying both supermarkets and restaurants. Bringing renewable energy production to such a large-scale poultry operation was, said the bank, a considerable achievement in terms of the changing tide on industry-wide action on climate change, as more and more supermarket and restaurants buyers were seeking out suppliers who are taking steps to implement a Net Zero agenda, and companies that are bringing renewable energy production to their operations are signalling their clear commitment to move away from fossil fuel energy.

Managing director of Biomass Group Limited, Trevor Coultan, commented: “We are keen to lead a transition towards sustainability across the sector, and are very happy with the funding facilitated by Clydesdale Bank introduced to us by Lennox Partners. We are a specialist biomass boiler company providing renewable energy to agri businesses, and we are growing in confidence that our alternative fuels and infrastructure will put the pressure on eradicating dirty energy. We are dedicated to green solutions and are thrilled to be working with partners to bring down carbon emissions on the farm.”

Virgin Money said that achieving substantial funding at the intersection of renewables and agriculture highlighted the potential for new technologies to revolutionise the agri-industry’s approach and common sense on energy – and promised that many more projects will likely benefit from the company's goal of building a sustainable future for British agriculture.