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Cooperle’s pig production cooperative demonstrates commercial potential of nutrient cycling

Participants from BSAG’s Nutrient Cycling Business Ecosystem made a trip to Brittany, France to visit Cooperle’s pig production cooperative. Cooperle’s farms stretch all around Western France but 65 % of them are located in Brittany. 35 % of all Cooperle’s production sites are situated in the small village of Lamballe, which was also the destination of the group’s visit.

Intensive animal production produces a lot of manure. The disposal of large amounts of manure is a problem on many farms, as spreading it requires a lot of land area. Spreading excessive amounts of manure causes nutrients to leak from fields to waterbodies. Due to large nitrogen loads from animal production, the bays of Brittany have for decades been badly eutrophied. Massive amounts of algae have become a nuisance during summertime, when they wash up on the beaches and rot there. Effective methods are needed to mitigate eutrophication, and also to follow EU’s Industrial Emission Directive.

BSAG’s group also met with persons responsible for the protection of waterbodies and the environment from the Rennes area. They presented the situation and solutions to the algal problems. BSAG also presented the modus operandi and solutions of HELCOM.

Cooperle’s cooperative has solved the problem of excess nitrogen by introducing more efficient manure treating methods. As most of the manure is used as raw material for fertilizer products, less manure needs to be spread in the fields. This makes more intensive animal production possible on a smaller area, decreases nutrient loads, improves soil quality, and opens up new business opportunities for fertilizers made from recovered nutrients.

Treatment of manure also produces renewable energy in the form of biogas. Nutrient cycling is thus only a part of Cooperle’s broader, environmentally sustainable operations model. The cooperative also has a strong innovation and product development department and labs. The aim of this development work is to utilize all waste and side streams produced by the cooperative, including slaughter house waste, for production of high quality and high value end products.

Cooperle has managed to turn the use of recycled nutrients into a profitable business. Cooperation makes it possible for farmers to acquire state-of-the-art solutions for effective nutrient cycling at the farms. The cooperation finances these purchases, and the farmer pays back with e.g. raw material for fertilizer, i.e. manure.

The size of the cooperation and the large number of farms allow Cooperle to tailor their fetrilizers for many different needs, for example by adjusting their nitrogen concentration and addition of micronutrients. Last year Cooperle produced 50 000 tonnes of different fertilizer products, and the goal for this year is 60 000 tonnes. Winegrowers are especially fond of Cooperle’s products.

“The visit to Cooperle was inspiring! Their work proves that nutrient cycling can realistically become a profitable business”, says BSAG’s Secretary General Mathias Bergman.

The contact with Cooperle will continue in the future. Plans have already been made for Cooperle’s representatives to visit Finland, where they will get acquainted with Finnish pig farms and meat production.

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