The Willand Intelligent Livestock System offers the potential for methane and carbon capture.

The company behind an innovative inflatable livestock production facility that offers the optimum conditions for animal wellbeing and productivity has been featured in the Start-Up Showcase at the REAP 2020 virtual conference. The event was organised by Agri-TechE, an East of England-based organisation bringing together farmers and growers with scientists, technologists and entrepreneurs to create a global innovation hub in agri-tech.

Willand’s managing director, Daniel Larn, said the company’s Willand Intelligent Livestock System (WIL System) can be installed and fitted-out within weeks and offers the potential for methane and carbon capture to enable the industry to meet its Net Zero targets profitably.

Mr Larn was brought up on his family’s farm, but made a career in the oil and gas industry. Following the downturn in 2017, he considered a move into farming, but then saw the potential for a way of transforming the way livestock is reared.

“The demand for meat is increasing internationally, but the Middle East and Africa is environmentally unsuitable for intensive production,” he said. “Happy animals are the most productive and we saw the opportunity for ‘sensitive intensification’: a climate controlled environment that would offer the animals space and protection from pests and harsh conditions.

“If we can scale production, then the units would also be suitable for temperate countries offering benefits from standardising conditions and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.”

The WIL System – which resembles the inflatable structures used for many years to provide undercover sports facilities – can be installed quickly on green-field sites. Fresh air is drawn in to maintain the pressure and stale air extracted and scrubbed to remove water, carbon dioxide and methane.

Mr Larn has been consulting with meat processors that have networks of suppliers. They see the potential to mass produce the livestock facility to lower the cost for farmers and support standardisation of the meat product.

The company is working with a leading university to create a prototype system and is looking for potential partners and investors to accelerate proof of concept so it can fulfil demand from Nigeria and the Middle East.

Willand Group has specialist expertise in IT systems integration, creating a platform into which third party devices such as sensors, monitors and climate control can be installed and then managed remotely through a dashboard.

The company is working with best-in-class suppliers across the industry to supply a robust and cost-effective next-generation livestock production facility.

Mr Larn believes that by removing ammonia and nitrates from the exhaust air and containing the slurry, units can also generate value from the by-products as fertiliser or through carbon capture. Although technically possible at the moment, more development is required for it to be cost-effective.

“In the UK, we’re working with planning authorities and the Environment Agency to ensure that the units meet quality standards,” he said. “This will enable installation of the WIL System in non-traditional sites close to centres of population if required.

“We’re offering a complete installation package, together with finance as required, and anticipate that it’ll take a month on site to go from bare field to fully functional unit.”

Agri-TechE director Belinda Clarke said in the race for net zero emissions from agriculture, Willand’s pop-up solution for livestock management facilities has the potential to be a game-changer.

“This innovation will bring together a range of technologies to improve emissions and animal welfare,” she added.

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