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The profitable pigs

John Ibbett, chairman of the AD group Biogen Greenfinch located in Bedfordshire, UK, manages 5,500 acres of land, 23,000 pigs sold to the likes of Tesco and J Sainsbury and an annual production 12.5 million litres of Bedfordshire herd slurry.

With the enforcement of government laws such as the taxation on rubbish sent to landfill sites as a way of reducing waste, Ibbett’s agribusiness then became a little more complicated.

Biogen Greenfinch is now an established company dealing with thousands of tonnes of waste through the process of anaerobic digestion (AD). Along with the Bedfordshire pig’s manure, waste food collected from local councils, supermarkets and manufacturers is processed to generate electricity, while the by-product can be used to feed Ibbett’s crops.

‘The logic was the we could reduce our carbon dioxide emissions, produce energy from waste and very a very good fertiliser we could put back on our land,’ Ibbett said.

The company now makes around £2.5 million (€2.9 million) a year in profits.

Ibbett’s first AD plant, Twinwoods, cost £4 million to construct and began operation in 2006. Biogen Greenfinch was then established two years later following a mergence with engineering firm Greenfinch.

The Twinwoods facility was then redeveloped and last year the joint venture constructed its £10 million Westwood plant close by – a larger facility specialising in food waste only.

Biogen Greenfinch’s Westwood plant has the capacity to generate 1.5 to 2MW of power from a 45,000-tonne-a-year supply of food. Heat is also produced during the process, some of which is utilised to heat fermenting vessels required during the process.

Biogen Greenfinch is planning to build a further nine AD plants throughout the next five years.