Effluent treatment system is set to deliver big water savings for dairy farming

The ClearTech effluent treatment system at Lincoln University Dairy Farm (LUDF) has saved more than 600,000 litres of freshwater in its first full month of operation.

The quantity of freshwater saved equates to the average daily water use of about 3,000 people, or the amount of water that an individual person would use in eight years. With steeply-rising farmer demand for ClearTech, the new effluent treatment technology will potentially save billions of litres of freshwater a year if used across the New Zealand dairy industry.

LUDF Farm Manager Peter Hancox says the impact of the ClearTech system on the farm’s operations has been a revelation.

“Our ClearTech plant has been fully operational since the start of our milking season, and already the amount of freshwater we’ve saved is remarkable. We’re saving at least 50% of the water used to wash the yard.

“If we continue along this trend, and we fully expect to, then over the whole 10-month season we’ll achieve a total saving of 6,000,000 litres of freshwater.”

Hancox says the costs of set-up and ongoing maintenance are relatively modest, and far outweighed by the benefits that will accrue to farms and the wider community. And as the ClearTech system works away in the background, its benefits are delivered with no extra effort on behalf of the farmer.

“It’s a win/win for farmers and the communities they’re part of, as every litre of wastewater recycled is a litre of freshwater saved.”

The breakthrough technology, developed by Lincoln University Soil Science Professors Keith Cameron and Hong Di, in conjunction with commercial partner Ravensdown, won the Science & Research Award at the inaugural Primary Industries Awards in July 2019, and the South Island Agricultural Fieldays Agri-Innovation Award, as well as a Highly Commended at the 2019 National Fieldays Innovation Awards.

The ClearTech system collects farm dairy effluent, treating it with a coagulant to bind effluent colloidal particles together in order to settle them out from the water. The treated water can then be recycled, with the leftover treated effluent being safely used to recycle nutrients back to the pasture without odour.

In addition to reducing freshwater used in the yard by about 50%, the ClearTech system effectively increases effluent pond storage capacity, while at the same time reducing leaching losses of phosphate and E.coli from the treated effluent when applied to the land.

Peter Hancox continues,

“These are huge benefits for farmers, with really significant implications for farmers’ relationships with the natural environment and their local communities.

“Farmers want to do the right thing, and ClearTech delivers us a system where we can make a real difference to our environmental impact without busting the budget and with no disruption to our normal farm operations.”

Lincoln University Acting Vice-Chancellor Professor Bruce McKenzie said the development of ClearTech exemplifies the University’s significant contribution to discovering agritech solutions to help address some of the world’s most pressing land-based challenges.

“We’re committed to delivering world-class research and education that equips new generations of leaders with the knowledge and motivation to build more prosperous, productive and sustainable communities in New Zealand and globally.

“We’re also focused on developing meaningful partnerships with like-minded organisations, and our close collaboration with Ravensdown has enabled the successful delivery of the ClearTech system to farmers.

“At Lincoln, we proudly declare our vision to ‘unlock the power of the land to enhance lives and grow the future’, and that’s exactly what we do every day in our research, our teaching, our partnerships, and in our pursuit of innovation. There’s no better example of the rewards of this resolve than the development and application of the ClearTech system.”

ClearTech is available from Ravensdown. More information is available HERE.  

Source:  Lincoln University

Author: Bob Edlin

Editor of AgScience Magazine and Editor of the AgScience Blog

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