The all-time high cost of conventional fertiliser has farmers looking at alternatives, including biosolids from wastewater treatment plants.
So says Evergreen Fields in Dunmore, County Galway, a firm which supplies biosolids as a “low-cost” fertiliser to farmers nationwide.
The company states that biosolids promote similar plant growth and quality responses at “a fraction of the cost”.
A spokesperson for the firm tells That’s Farming:
“When biosolids are spread on agricultural land, they add nutrients, improve soil and enhance moisture retention.
Applying biosolids to land has economic and waste management benefits, since it saves space in landfills, recycles a waste product and reduces demand for conventional fertilisers.”
“It is a cost-effective and environmentally sustainable fertiliser,” they added.
Coming up on 30 years in business, Evergreen Fields is a waste disposal and transport specialist which provides a range of services.
These include nutrient management plans, storage, liming, land spreading and anaerobic digestion. Since 2014, however, when Stephen took over the company from his father, Martin, biosolids have become its core business.
There are many advantages to using biosolids as a fertiliser, which the firm states are as follows:
- Increases plant growth by providing nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium and other nutrients for healthy plant growth;
- Improve soil by enriching it with slow-release nutrients and organic matter;
- Increases bacterial activity;
- Improves soil texture;
- Promotes healthy root growth;
- Increases uptake;
- Can reduce fertiliser costs while maintaining high yields.
The spokesperson explained that the firm takes soil samples to determine soil nutrient levels to accurately apply the correct rates for optimum crop growth.
The soil samples allow the firm to create a nutrient management plan.
“By supplying them with biosolids, storing it and spreading it, we offer the full service to our customers.”
“We have 30 years’ experience and are, therefore, tried and trusted. Education is key, especially as many farmers are not familiar with biosolids.”
“We see it as our job to educate them, and we did this at the recent National Ploughing Championships, where we were inundated with questions and enquiries.”
The company also supplies feedstocks to anaerobic digesters and, in return, supplies farmers with digestate, which is what remains after anaerobic digestion.
The anaerobic digester processes a number of products, including farm waste, dairy waste, abattoir/meat factory waste, kitchen waste, fats, oils and greases, septic tank sludge, maize and rape.
The process involves the acceptance of wastes into the plant, either solid or liquid, which is then fed to the primary digester.
As part of the process, the plant has an on-site pasteuriser which will treat the waste to animal by-product standards, killing any contaminants by heating it to over 70 degrees for one hour.
The resultant product is dewatered through a centrifuge and further dried using the on-site dryer, after which it is blended to provide high-quality fertiliser for further use.
The advantages of digestate include: crop available nutrients; sulphur additions during crop growth; source of organic matter; source of moisture; used as part of your fertiliser management plan.
Both digestate and biosolids are applied through disc injectors or rear discharge muck spreaders.
Evergreen Fields has a Major disc injector which drills the liquid directly into the ground, as well as two Hi-Spec Xcel 1250 rear dischargers.
The spokesperson explained that belly grass, chicken litter, dairy waste and compost are also collected and spread for fertiliser value.
The spokesperson says: “One of the longest-serving companies in the liquid and biosolids industry, Evergreen Fields has been assessed and registered as meeting the requirements of ISO 9001 Quality Management System, ISO 14001 Environmental System and ISO 45001 Occupational Health and Safety Management System.”
From humble beginnings in 1993 when it was founded as Smyth Transport by Martin Smyth, it has grown to employ 17 people.
It has a 10-strong fleet of Volvo FH Globetrotters, 35 vacuum tankers, and bulk tipper trailers, along with two New Holland t7235 tractors which the disc injector and rear dischargers run off.
The spokesperson adds: “We originally did a lot of general haulage, but as the years went by, we got more and more into waste. We were busy up to 2010, but the waste work slowed down, and we stopped tendering for work.”
After spending a few years in Australia, Stephen returned home in 2014 and revived the family business.
Stephen explains: “We still had a truck and a trailer in the yard, so I got on the phone and started looking for work.”
“We have not looked back since, with biosolids now accounting for about 80% of our business. We collect biosolids from wastewater treatment plants all over the country and deliver them to farms nationwide.”
“Also, we collect waste from meat factories for supply to anaerobic digesters, and the digestate from the digesters is then delivered to farms,” the affable managing director explains.
“As fertiliser prices continue to rise, now is the time to get prepared for next year.”
“It can take up to four weeks for soil sample results to be complete, plus four weeks for a nutri-management plan to be approved by a county council, so getting this complete in October/November is extremely important if you wish to receive biosolids for 2023,” the spokesperson concluded.
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