Sustainable dairy farming in China through improved effluent management

We are supporting sustainable dairy farming in China by researching the most cost-effective and fit-for-purpose treatment systems for effluent, the best re-use options and the appropriate standards for organic and nutrient loads to soil and water.

The Challenge

Effluent management is critical for sustainable dairy farming in China

Advancements in sustainable effluent management systems provide the key for the expansion of agriculture, particularly in countries where existing treatment systems need to be expanded. Fonterra, a New Zealand dairy cooperative, aims to produce one billion litres of milk annually in China by 2020. Sustainability is top of mind for the company as it develops its farming hubs.

Fonterra has been continually making improvements to its effluent management system to:

  • Comply with Chinese regulatory policies
  • Suit a range of different operating environments in different locations
  • Be as sustainable as possible from both an environmental and business point of view
  • Be safe for people to operate
  • Ensure Fonterra has a minimal impact on the communities where it operates.

Our Response

Sustainable effluent management systems

Using our transdisciplinary expertise in water recycling, effluent management and agricultural systems, and sourcing the best technologies from across the globe, we were able to advise Fonterra on sustainable, fit-for-purpose systems for managing the effluent from their expanding farm operations in China.

Effluent management systems need to be safe (for people, cattle and production), cost effective, compliant with regulations and deliver reliable performance. Systems that are also flexible, simple to operate and provide positive environmental benefits are highly favoured.

Our team reviewed Fonterra’s treatment processes and identified cost effective opportunities to address organic, nutrient and microbiological contents to help them achieve their effluent management goals.

The Results

Opportunities for Fonterra to optimise effluent treatment

We were able to identify opportunities for Fonterra to utilise the effluent by-products on farm. Gas from the digestion process can be used to heat and power the farms. Effluent may be treated to irrigation standards and used to irrigate crops.

Alternatively, treated effluent may be used as fertiliser; this is a relatively cheap and simple method for managing effluent to relevant standards. In addition, effluent treated to discharge water standards may be used as environmental water or re-used on farm, although this is probably only economically viable in situations where water is scarce.


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