Precision farming in crop and livestock production

Photo: ATB

Off the diesel!

Still running on diesel: Tractors on a dairy farm (Photo: ATB)

Still running on diesel: Tractors on a dairy farm (Photo: ATB)

Transport to France for retrofitting (Photo: CRMT)

Transport to France for retrofitting (Photo: CRMT)

An important step on the way to sustainable and climate-friendly animal husbandry is to abandon the use of fossil fuels. How can the energy transition be achieved at farm level? The EU project RES4LIVE addresses the question of how livestock farms in particular can become independent of fossil fuels in the future. Which renewable energy technologies are attractive in terms of cost efficiency, operational flexibility and maintenance requirements? 

An important step on the way to sustainable and climate-friendly animal husbandry is to discontinue the use of fossil fuels.
Intensive livestock farming, which mainly uses fossil fuels, is one of the most energy-intensive sub-sectors of agriculture. 

The recently launched RES4LIVE project therefore focuses on innovative and cost-effective solutions for the transition to renewable energy sources (RES) that ensure sustainable management and animal welfare-optimised barn climate control.

Key technologies investigated in the project include photovoltaic systems, modular heat pumps as well as biogas upgrading to biomethane and retrofitting tractors that can then run on biomethane, but also including other technologies such as geothermal energy and the electrification of agricultural machinery.  

ATB will work on the efficient upgrading of biogas to biomethane, which will be used as a "green" fuel in a retrofitted tractor.
The practical test will be carried out in close cooperation with the project partner Lehr- und Versuchsanstalt für Tierzucht und Tierhaltung e.V. (LVAT) Groß Kreutznear Potsdam, with which the ATB maintains intensive research cooperation for years, especially in the fields of biogas technology, animal husbandry, emission reduction and milking technology. At LVAT, a biogas plant converts the residues from animal husbandry into biogas.  The energy produced on the farm contributes to the farm's self-sufficient energy supplies and is also intended to supply the farm's own fleet of vehicles with renewable fuel in the future. 

Beginning of January 2020, a tractor was transported from LVAT to the French partner CRMT, where it will be retrofitted for the use of biomethane. CRMT specialises in engines that run on alternative fuels. Based on this research tractor, the French researchers from CRMT will develop a retrofit kit in the coming months that can be used to convert all common tractor types to renewable fuel at low cost.

In addition, intelligent management systems for heat and electricity consumption and an intelligent control system for the efficient use of air-cooling energy to reduce heat stress for dairy cows are being developed, implemented and tested as part of RES4LIVE in cooperation with the European partners. 

In RES4LIVE, the ATB is leading work package 4, which focuses on the integration, testing and monitoring of different RES solutions in practice. The case-specific requirements regarding the technologies are going to be tested on farms at different locations in Europe: In addition to the experimental farm Groß Kreutz (dairy cattle), experimental farms in Greece (poultry) and Belgium (pigs) as well as a practical farm in Italy (pigs) are involved.

The project "Energy Smart Livestock Farming towards Zero Fossil Fuel Consumption (RES4LIVE)" brings together 17 partners from 8 countries. The consortium consists of 4 universities, 4 research organisations, 6 SMEs, 1 farm and 2 international associations. The project is coordinated by the Agricultural University of Athens. It receives funding totalling €5 million over a period of 4 years from the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant number 101000785.   

Further information: 

Contact ATB: Prof. Dr. Thomas Amon