Poultry in motion as Limerick agri-tech firm enters US market
BHSL spreads its wings, says potential for its manure-to-energy tech is not chicken feed
Jack and Declan O’Connor, founders of Biomass Heating Solutions Limited: The company says the potential size of the US market opportunity is more than $500 million
Co Limerick-based agri-tech firm BHSL, which has pioneered a method for using poultry manure as an energy source, is to enter the US market after agreeing a new €3 million pilot project with the state of Maryland.
The project, which is backed by Mountaire, the seventh-largest chicken producer in the US with more than 330 million birds each year, will see Biomass Heating Solutions Limited’s poultry-manure-to-energy technology being trialled at a 112-acre farm in Rhodesdale.
Maryland is providing $1 million in funding for the project – with more than a billion chickens produced along the Chesapeake Bay every year, the state is keen to support methods for transforming the environmental impact of the poultry industry.
Currently, some 228,000 tonnes of excess manure is spread on fields around the bay each year, leading to pollution issues due to the high levels of phosphorous and nitrogen contained in the waste.
BHSL’s system is used to provide heating on chicken farms but can also be sold back into the electricity grid. It works by collecting poultry litter, which is then burned in a heated layer of sand suspended over jets of air in a process called fluidised bed combustion to create fuel. The process also leads to a non-polluting by-product that can be sold as fertiliser.
The Chesapeake Bay Commission said BHSL’s technology has the potential to play a significant role in reducing levels of pollution in the region.
“We have been looking for options to address the Bay’s environmental challenges while supporting the farm community. If it works, it will be one of those win-win situations, with a financial benefit to the farmer and a positive environmental impact. I hope that the pilot project is successful so that other farmers are encouraged to do the same,” said Ann Swanson, executive director of the commission.
BHSL, which is providing the remaining €2 million in funding for the new project, was established by brothers Jack and Declan O’Connor in 2009. It employs 28 people at its headquarters in Ballagh.
The company said the potential size of the US market opportunity for BHSL is more than $500 million.
The firm’s technology is already fully operational on two UK farms and it claims a “very strong sales pipeline” for product delivery in other export markets, including New Zealand, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, Italy and Saudi Arabia.
“Our unique solution can both reduce costs and increase revenue for the farmers while solving the environmental challenge they face,” said BHSL chief executive Declan O’Connor.