Australian Centre for Water
and Environmental Biotechnology

Pig Waste is a Resource

Wednesday, 22 March 2017
  • Dr Stephan Tait

Since 2012, with Pork CRC and Australian Pork Limited (APL) investment, the Advanced Water Management Centre has played a leading role in research on producing and using biogas on-farm.

From this came an Australia-wide technical and research support program working directly with pork farmers to explore opportunities in waste. Funded by the Pork CRC and led by the AWMC, the program included on-farm research to trial and develop technologies specifically tailored for Australian conditions – including support programs, safety guidelines, and treatment processes.

In just over four years AWMC research and extension has played a major role towards the 12% increase in biogas uptake at Australian piggeries, with a number of piggeries now producing electricity and heat to create optimum growth conditions for their pigs.

The AWMC’s on-farm research was also used in the development of carbon abatement legislation, now administered under the Emissions Reduction Fund. This legislation has earnt the Australian pork sector more than three million dollars income for reducing emissions. The emissions fund is a strong recommendation to farmers for adoption and will cover a significant proportion of the capital costs of capturing and using biogas.

The original participating farms are now demonstration sites to the remainder of the pork sector, providing evidence of the research benefits and encouraging technology adoption.

The same research has also led to the AWMC co-authoring the APL’s Safety Code of Practice for On-farm Biogas Use, earmarked by state-based regulators as a preferred standard for on-farm biogas applications.

The amount of biogas energy available at piggeries is typically 200% of what is needed on-farm. The farms are usually quite remote and while excess electricity can be exported to the supply grid, this is done at a very minimal sale value, which has led the farmers to want other options.

Pork CRC research is now investigating technology to upgrade piggery biogas to biomethane, meaning the farmers could then use it to fuel machinery or transport vehicles instead of selling back to the grid.

AWMC’s Dr Stephan Tait was recently awarded a pork industry Science and Innovation Award for Young People in Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry. He will use this award to travel abroad to inspect and document on-farm biogas upgrading and compression technologies, then bring those learnings back to Australia to develop options for Australian farmers.

On-going AWMC research is also targeting nutrients and water as additional resources in wastewater, including projects focus on water treatment and recycling options, nutrient upcycling to high-value products, and anaerobic co-digestion. This research is also aimed at facilitating cross-industry links for better management of waste resources, and to increase business profitability while enhancing environmental sustainability.

For further information please contact Dr Stephan Tait