Farm Ireland

Sunday 16 December 2018

How scientists are turning wastewater from dairy processing plants into animal feed

Claire Fox

Claire Fox

Scientists in Cork working on a system that will allow animal feed to be developed from wastewater in dairy processing plants, say the feed would reduce our reliance on imported soy

Newtrients, which is based in at the Environmental Research Institute at  UCC, is currently in its  first year of a four year-programme that is looking to recover chemicals such as phosphorus and nitrogen from wastewater in dairy plants in order to make high protein feed.

Between 2010 and 2015 Ireland imported more than 3m tonnes of animal feed. Dr Niall O’ Leary of Newtrients says that their project could help reduce our dependency on imported soy.

“The milk comes in to the plant and is processed and it goes on to plant production where the nitrogen and phosphorus are accumulated. It can be dried and then used for cattle feed during the off season when they’re in sheds and would reduce our reliance on imported soy which we currently import a lot of,” he said.

Dr O’ Leary said the system of recovering wastewater to generate high protein animal feed is in line with Food Harvest 2020 goals and our Food Wise 2025 targets.

 In this era of dairy expansion, he added that on average 5 litres of wastewater are generated per dairy product produced in plants  and that there’s therefore potential to generate large amounts of waste water in a sustainable manner for animal feed.

“The dairy industry is expanding in Ireland. We generate up to 7 billion litres of milk a year, that’s around 5 litres of wastewater per dairy product. It could save the dairy industry money in the logistical running of things but also it can help the environment and save energy costs,” he explained.

The first two years of the Newtrients project will be lab focused and the final two years will be industry based where the team will work with an industry plant on the project.

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“We have gotten support in the past and worked with Dairygold and Kerry Group in the past, we have had interest from dairy processors. It has the potential to introduce competitiveness in the processing industry for waste materials,” he said.

Newtrinets is just one of numerous projects at the Environmental Research Institute which is benefitting from a €44m cash boost for research which announced yesterday.

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