| Compost | Digestate | Solar Panels |
Is vital for enriching soil, it helps break up heavy soils and improves the nutrient and water retention of sandy soils and it's an excellent source of organic-matter, potash, phosphate and trace elements.
At Blackbirds we have been making sustainable compost for over ten years. The process starts with the green waste collected by local authorities from gardens and parks, such as grass cuttings, tree and shrub trimmings and Christmas trees, and therefore avoiding the disposal into landfill sites. The farm lorries collect this from the local council recycling sites and bring it back to the farm; first it's put through the shredder to break it up, and then the screener and wind-sifter to remove any rubbish. Next it’s taken to various Environment Agency permitted sites situated around the farm; this is where nature gets to work as it matures in windrows, breaking down the organic matter. Managing the temperatures by turning it regularly, allows it to get hot enough to sanitise and stablise it and also improve the airflow within the windrows which helps minimise odours. After about six weeks the natural composting process is complete, but before it is ready for spreading the compost is screened again as a final quality control measure. Our finished product is PAS100 certified and can now be used on the fields.
Although it is ready, it can’t be spread until after harvest when the crops are gathered in. In the meantime the finished compost is stored in the fields where it will eventually be spread. The compost is rich in organic matter, nutrients and minerals, all vital for the soil structure and healthy growth of the crops.
Provides a readily available source of nitrogen and beneficial elements. The application of this is time critical for the growing crop and greatly minimises our dependence on fossil-fuel based synthetic nitrogen fertilisers.
Since 2014 eight new 'Anaerobic Digestion Plants' have been built between a radius of five and twenty-five miles of Blackbirds, producing about half a million tonnes of digestate, from over half a million tonnes of food waste, most of which is spread on farmland in surrounding counties. We only have a limited capacity to use a small percentage of this digestate, and in 2015 we were one of the earliest farms locally to embrace this growing industry, which many do nationally due to the environmental and soil health benefits on many levels.
We collect certified BSI PAS110 specification digestate, from local AD Plants in our farm's own tankers. Anaerobic digestion recycles the food waste into renewable energy supplied to the national grid, and a rich bio-fertiliser spread on farmland for the production of crops. It's a natural decomposition process done under oxygen free conditions, using bacteria and micro-organisms to break down the food and organic materials. The technology used allows us to create a cycle of food waste back into food production. Keen to embrace best available techniques we have invested in specialist spreading equipment applying the digestate directly onto the soil, close to the roots, reducing the amount lost to the atmosphere.
Depending on the time of year and the weather conditions, once the digestate arrives on the farm it is either spread immediately on the growing crops or stored until conditions are suitable for spreading, and throughout the year applications are tailored to meet the requirements of the growing crop.
Always keen to try and reduce our carbon footprint, in 2015 we installed two solar panel systems on our barn roofs generating electricity for our own use and the national grid.