References Agriculture, Circular economy

Emomylly is a large piggery located in South-western Finland. Its biogas plant produces electricity, heat, and recycled nutrients. Emomylly is almost self-sufficient in electricity and heat. Furthermore, its nutrients are transported to neighboring farms for utilization as fertilizers.

In May 1995, Finland won its first ice hockey world championship. That year saw another significant event, too: an environmentally friendly sow piggery called Emomylly was founded in Huittinen. With its 2500 sows Emomylly is now one of the largest sow piggeries in Finland.

After the insemination approximately half of the sow population farrows in the central unit. The rest are sent to “satellite piggeries” for farrowing. In addition to the three satellite piggeries, there are about a dozen other farm units in the ecosystem.

Biogas plant brings self-sufficiency and new business opportunities

Emomylly is an exceptional piggery in Finland. In addition to its large size, another differentiating factor is its biogas plant. There are not many biogas plants that digest manure. In general, such plants are more common in dairy farms than in piggeries. When Finland won its second hockey championship in 2011, Emomylly was already planning the biogas plant. It was launched some 18 months after the championship party.

The biogas plant produces 75% of the electricity used in the piggery.

All slurry from the piggery goes through the plant. Emomylly makes use of the biogas produced in the process.

“With the biogas plant we are able to produce some 75 percent of the electricity used in the piggery and almost all of the energy needed for heating. In addition to the biogas, the plant produces also digestate which is transported to neighboring farms”, tells Emomylly’s CEO Kai Huovinen.

A large piggery creates large amounts of slurry. This may pose some challenges. Emomylly’s location in Huittinen underlines the importance of enhancing nutrient recycling. Due to the concentrated animal production, the region has a surplus of manure phosphorus in comparison to the need in crop production. It would be important to enable some of the manure to be utilized further away from the piggery.

So far Emomylly has offered the digestate for free to the neighboring farms. Together with the Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke) it investigated the opportunities for further refining the digestate into recycled nutrient products.

Pigs in a piggery.
Pigs produce a lot of nutrient-rich slurry. It’s commercial use is not yet viable, but recycling improves the piggery’s environmental sustainability.

Challenges in commercializing recycled nutrients

Setting up the biogas plant was a significant investment, in the scale of a million euros. However, until now the plant has not been used to its full potential. Commercializing and productizing nutrients was seen as the most potential option for expanding the business.

“We investigated the topic in two phases. First we scanned the current state of the biogas plant operations and outlined some future opportunities. Next, we conducted more exact calculations on how to make more use of the plant’s capacity, as well as on refining the digestate and applying various business models on it”, describes Luke’s senior scientist Sari Luostarinen..

A central outcome of the investigations was that on purely commercial terms nutrient recycling is currently not economically viable. There exists no stable market for recycled nutrients with a decent return on investment.

Reducing the environmental impact has a central role

To build up commercial production and utilization of recycled nutrients needs carefully targeted support from the society. Such actions are justified because improved nutrient recycling reduces emissions into water systems and helps to reduce the carbon footprint of agriculture.

“The recycled nutrients created in the biogas plant are often seen as waste, even though the nutrients are in a better form than in raw manure. Furthermore, their production is based on recycling, in other words it is sustainable”, reminds Huovinen.

Photo on the top: Luke’s biogas plant in Maaninka, Finland. Sari Luostarinen.