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Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnane hails from a sixth-generation drystock and specialised pedigree suckler enterprise in Co. Mayo. She currently holds the positions of editor and general manager at That's Farming, having joined the firm during its start-up phase in 2015.
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VIDEO: Circular manure-handling system makes three types of fertiliser

Lely has launched a new shed system for separating mineral flows and converting emissions into value.

The Lely Sphere separates manure and urine, converts nitrogen emissions, and creates three types of fertiliser.

Dairy farmers can use these separated fertilisers for precision fertilisation. According to the company, this closes mineral loops better, reduces nitrogen emissions, and creates a healthier climate in the barn.

“Lely Sphere is designed to help dairy farmers exploit the valuable nutrients in manure to the maximum, and thus promote crop growth,” said Korstiaan Blokland, Head of Innovations at Lely.

“This practical solution is easy to deploy, and part of the transition to more sustainable and even more circular dairy farming.”

Better closure of mineral loops

For dairy farmers, closing mineral loops is becoming increasingly important because it improves the social acceptance and sustainability of farming.

Minerals leave the company through milk, meat, manure disposal and emissions from manure.

The manufacturer said that by making better use of the minerals in manure and converting losses through emission into value, the mineral loop is better closed, and less fertiliser needs to be purchased.

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How does it work?

The Lely Sphere system consists of various simple and easily applicable parts.

In the first place, manure and urine are immediately separated from each other.

The urine flows through separation strips to the pit, while the manure remains above. This is the first step to limiting emissions, because separating at the source results in less ammonia in the shed.

The Lely Sphere N-Capture creates an under-pressure in the pit, and extracts manure gases that are created under and just above the barn floor. This also includes the remainder of the ammonia formed on the walking surface and the pit.

The filter in the N-Capture captures the ammonia and uses acid to convert it into circular fertiliser. The Discovery Collector barn cleaning robot regularly sucks up the solid manure, keeps the barn floor clean, and transports this solid fraction to a chosen disposal site.

Optimal fertilisation of crops

The Lely Sphere system creates three types of fertiliser:

  • Mineral nitrogen of mineral fertiliser quality in the discharge water produced by the N-Capture;
  • Phosphate and organic nitrogen in the solid fraction;
  • Potassium in the thin fraction in the pit.

Livestock farmers can use the exact type of fertiliser needed to fertilise soil and crops, precisely where and when it is needed.

As an added bonus, fewer emissions are formed when spreading on grassland.

The 3 types of fertiliser allow livestock farmers to respond better to the needs of their grass and corn, according to the firm.

Around 70% reduction in ammonia emissions

Official measurements at test farms have shown that total ammonia emissions from barns are reduced by approximately 70%.

As an emission-limiting system, Lely Sphere also distinguishes itself by reusing nitrogen as a substitute for chemical fertiliser. Practical tests have shown that 10 to 20 kg nitrogen per cow per year can be ‘harvested’.

Healthier shed climate

Separating manure and urine and ventilating the pits reduces ammonia in the shed.

Extracting manure gases from the pits also increases safety, as these harmful gases no longer accumulate in the manure pit, the firm added.

It also keeps the air in the shed fresher. The natural ventilation in the shed is maintained, and cows can walk in and out freely.

The Discovery Collector keeps the barn floor cleaner, which improves hygiene and claw health.

Besides creating value from manure, Lely Sphere also keeps the barn climate healthy and safe for humans and animals.

The next steps

Work on developing Lely Sphere began in 2015. The systems have been operational since 2017 and are now running on four test farms. The system has international potential, but initially, Lely will focus on the Dutch market.

Now, approximately 60% of the official measurements necessary for recognition under the Netherlands Livestock Farming Ammonia Regulation (RAV), have been completed.

It is expected that this official recognition as an innovative housing system against ammonia emissions will be granted in the third quarter of 2021.

Following this, Lely hopes to make the system available to more livestock farmers in the Netherlands.

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