Mackie’s puts the dung into dairies

Cows from Mackie's Farm
Cows from Mackie's Farm
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Ice cream maker to use methane from its herd to power factory and move towards green energy vision

MACKIE’S of Scotland, the ice cream maker, is developing a new way of powering its factory – using dung produced by its 400-strong herd of cows.

The cow-branded ice cream from Mackies

The cow-branded ice cream from Mackies

It is estimated that turning poop into power will help the firm to save up to £300,000 in fuel costs as well as creating one job and safeguarding two others.

The company has teamed up with scientists at Edinburgh Napier University’s Biofuel Business Programme (BBP) to devise plans for a plant that will use thousands of tonnes of slurry to generate methane biogas, which can then be transformed into electricity.

The development of a 250kW anaerobic digestion system at Mackie’s dairy farm in Westertown, Rothienorman, near Inverurie, would be the final element in making the firm entirely reliant on renewable energy.

It approached the BBP, the UK’s first research centre dedicated to the development of sustainable biofuel, seeking help to deal more efficiently with the slurry, currently used as fertiliser.

Mackie’s was an early adopter of renewable energy, introducing an 800kW wind turbine in 2005 to supply electricity to the farm and ice cream production, followed by an additional two 800kW turbines in 2007, which now supply 70 per cent of the firm’s energy needs and allow 62 per cent of their total output to be exported to the national grid.

A further 50kW of solar panels were added earlier this year to complement the wind turbines to reduce grid usage during daylight hours when Mackie’s power usage is at its highest.

The firm continues to take energy from the grid when there is no wind or when its consumption is higher than the output from its renewable sources, and directors believe installing an anaerobic digestion plant will make this no longer necessary.

Gerry Stephens, Mackie’s director of finance, said: “Part of Mackie’s vision is to be the greenest company in Britain. We are always looking for new ways to reduce our carbon footprint and improve the environment.

“With over 400 cows that produce milk for our luxury ice cream, we were looking for an efficient use for the other by-product from the cows.”

Professor Martin Tangney, director of the Biofuel Research Centre at Edinburgh Napier, said: “Scotland leads the way in seeking alternative energy sources, with ambitious self-imposed targets.

“Key to achieving these goals will be adoption of renewable energy technologies by Scottish companies, and our objective at the Biofuel Research Centre is to assist wherever possible in introducing sustainable biofuels and bioenergy from renewable resources.

“Mackie’s is a fantastic example of a company looking across the board to cut its carbon footprint and strive towards self-sufficiency for energy.”

A spokeswoman for Scottish Renewables said: “Considering the demands on energy must be fairly high, it is impressive that Mackie’s aims to be totally sustainable. “It’s a great example of what Scottish companies can do and shows that they are harnessing all their natural resources – wind, sun and now waste.”