We farm a lot of land and we are dedicated to looking after every single acre. Integrated crop management techniques, soil health and crop nutrition are at the heart of this commitment.
We keep our soils covered up through the year using cover crops. This natural crop management practice reduces soil erosion, encourages biodiversity, retains nutrients, enhances soil structure, and helps to capture carbon in the soil (carbon sequestration).
Our anaerobic digestion plant not only provides us with energy and heat, but also provides us with a large proportion of our fertiliser requirement. The ‘digestate’ that comes out of the AD plant is rich in nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, together with lots of micro nutrients. It’s also organic. Using digestate produced from waste sweetcorn husks, allows us to grow more sweetcorn using less conventional fertiliser.
“The quality of the soil and the biodiversity balance mean everything when producing healthy crops. To farm successfully, you need to be a custodian of nature.”
Peter Barfoot, CBE (Services to Sustainable Farming)
Our waste does not go to waste. In fact, our waste powers our farms and offices. We turn every last bit of it into green energy using our anaerobic digesters. As a result, we have been a carbon-neutral business since 2010.
We contribute to a number of schemes to relieve food poverty and reduce food waste. Our partner charities, which include FareShare and UKHarvest, collect surplus good-quality food, including ‘wonky veg’, and distribute it to those in need. Through FareShare alone, we have donated over 447 tonnes of vegetables that would otherwise have gone to waste. This is equal to more than 1,064,936 nutrient-rich meals.
“If we can provide those who are less fortunate than most with the opportunity to eat our vegetables, then donating our surplus produce is simply the right thing to do.” Keston Williams, Technical Director
We need a lot of energy to power our business and we produce it all ourselves. Everything we do is fuelled by green energy. We are self-sufficient, thanks to our investment in sustainable waste management. Anaerobic digestion is at the heart of this commitment. In fact, we produce much more energy than we need for our factories and fields. We are a net exporter, selling our surplus back to National Grid. Watch our film on how our anaerobic digestors work.
As our business has grown, so has our dedication to sustainable energy. We continue to explore ways to reduce our carbon footprint, investing in technology such as photovoltaic cells, LED lighting, and artificial fertiliser replacement.
The foods that we feed into our anaerobic digesters are by-products from our factory and the majority of this are sweetcorn husks. We also grow crops for the plant, which give sour fields better rotation.
Our anaerobic digesters survive largely on a nutritious diet of mixed crop peelings. We premix it and warm it up before it goes into the tanks to be digested.
This is the main control centre of our anaerobic digestion facility. From here, we control how much we feed into the digesters, the storage of the biogas and our two generators.
Our anaerobic digesters produce biogas. This needs to be cleaned and dried before it can be used. We remove the impurities before using it to power our generators.
Our generators produce more energy than we need. We sell the surplus to National Grid. The heat from the generators is used, among other things, to warm our anaerobic digestion facility.
What remains after the process of anaerobic digestion is called digestate. We separate the liquid and solid elements of digestate. The liquid is passed through a pasteuriser and stored until it is needed as part of our fertiliser programme.
We use the solid part of digestate as a soil conditioner, and the liquid as a crop fertiliser. This helps us grow the high-quality vegetables for which we are renowned.
Water is a precious commodity that we have a duty to protect and use responsibly. It gives life to the crops that sustain our business and to the people and communities that are part of what we do.
To this end, we are committed to sustainable water use and ensuring high standards of water management in the areas where we farm.
Our new water treatment facility cleans and converts all our factory waste water into irrigation water for our crops. Currently it can treat 300 cubic meters a day, enough to fill an Olympic sized swimming pool in a week.
The water treatment plant adds further to Barfoots’ sustainability credentials, demonstrating how we continue to lead the way.
Waste water from the factory (effluent) is collected and pumped to the WTP, located ½ way between Sefter and Little Sefter along the track.
The incoming effluent is then screened through a filter that removes any small bits of vegetable matter (sweetcorn silks, kernels, butternut pieces etc). These vegetable bits aren’t wasted, but fed into the AD plant to create more energy. The filtered effluent is stored in a balance tank awaiting treatment.
The effluent in the balance tank is filtered again before entering a big bioreactor. The bioreactor is basically a big tank that has large amounts of air bubbled through it, stirring it up and aerating the contents. Aerobic bacteria breakdown the contents into basic components, like carbon dioxide.
We then pass the contents of the Bioreactor through an Ultra Filtration System that filters everything out, including any bacteria, leaving clean water. This water will then be stored in our reservoirs and used to irrigate our crops.
Along with a number of high-profile partners, including Marks & Spencer, Coop, DanPer and SGS, we are involved in the development of a water stewardship standard for the Peruvian asparagus industry.
The aim of the initiative is to address shared water challenges and bring issues to the attention of national-level stakeholders, with the purpose of creating benefits for local communities, growers and retailers.