A FARM in the Pennines is hosting an open day to demonstrate the benefits of its small-scale anaerobic digester.

Mark Chippendale and his son, Adam, of Wharton Hall Farm, near Kirkby Stephen, found the system by chance on the internet when they were researching the market for digesters.

The family has farmed at Wharton Hall for more than 50 years and have built up to 500 head of cattle, including 190 dairy cows, followers and home-reared Angus and Holstein store bullocks. The cows are milked by four Lely robots. There are also 1,100 breeding ewes on farm.

Adam said: “We were under the impression that all AD plants had to be of a certain size, which would have required us to swap grass production for maize in order to keep a digester fed.

"We were surprised to find an affordable, small-scale system designed by Biolectric and installed by Solcap Energy, that perfectly suited our farm and our business. We feel it has been a good investment so far.”

He said they are creating their own green energy, exporting any excess electricity to the national grid under a Feed-in Tariff agreement and also heating their family homes. The alternative new income stream means they are more resilient as a business to fluctuations in milk and beef prices. The system has also improved the quality of digestate (slurry) with methane and odours almost eliminated.

The Chippendale family are hosting the on-farm open day, in conjunction with The Farmer Network, on Thursday, November 23, from 10am to 2pm, when farmers are invited to visit and look at the new digester and how it fits the farm business.

Adam Day, managing director of the Farmer Network, a not-for-profit organisation providing support to farming families and their businesses, said: “We are grateful to our members Mark and Adam for allowing farmers the opportunity to come and have a look at the technology used at Wharton Hall.

"The Network tries to be alert to new practices, technology and equipment. We are always looking to support farm businesses at grassroots level, which means getting out on to farms and seeing kit working in practice, rather than theory.”

Parking for the event will be at Kirkby Stephen Auction Mart, CA17 4QL and minibuses will transport people to and from the farm throughout the day. Booking is essential; call The Farmer Network on 01768 868615 or email admin@thefarmernetwork.co.uk.