On Feb. 13, agri-tech company BHSL welcomed the Governor of Maryland Larry Hogan to the official launch of a $3M pilot project that is demonstrating the powerful role BHSL’s technology can play in addressing the environmental challenges the state faces from its large poultry industry.
The event took place at Bob Murphy’s 112-acre poultry farm in Rhodesdale, Md., where a BHSL unit was installed in October 2016, and is currently operating in one chicken house. The installation will be extended on a phased basis for use across four chicken houses on the farm over the 12-month trial period.
The performance of the unit will be closely monitored by researchers from the University of Maryland. However, significant improvements have already been observed in the first flock of birds grown in the chicken house in which the BHSL unit is installed.
Murphy said, “It's early days but my sons and I have been really pleased with the impact of the BHSL unit. The conditions in the chicken house have significantly improved with lower humidity and ammonia levels. We think that once we complete the pilot project, the data will encourage more farmers to consider this technology. I strongly believe that with the restrictions the State is putting on how farmers use poultry litter, the BHSL solution is our ticket for turning manure into energy. It's a win-win for all.”
BHSL’s technology works by converting poultry manure into energy, which is then used to provide heating for future batches of chicks, or for electricity generation which can be used to cool sheds in the hotter summer months.
Over 300 million chickens are produced in Maryland each year, and approximately 1 billion in the wider Chesapeake Bay area (12% of total U.S. production), resulting in an estimated 1.2M tonnes of manure, which is contributing pollutants that flow into the Bay, causing severe environmental problems including algal bloom and damage to fish and shellfish stocks.
Commenting on the project, Denis Brosnan, Chairman of BHSL, said, “We are delighted to be welcoming the Governor today to see first-hand how BHSL is making good on its mission to transform poultry production. Farmers using our system can transform the environment in their chicken sheds, and enjoy improved efficiencies and profitability. We have a technological solution that can help address the pressing challenge of cleaning up Chesapeake Bay and reducing the impact of manure from the poultry industry. The State’s support for this pilot project has been invaluable and we hope that more can be done to help farmers who want to use this technology to address an important environmental issue.”
Also attending the event were Maryland Agriculture Secretary Joe Bartenfelder; Maryland State Senator Thomas Middleton; Ann Swanson, Executive Director of the Chesapeake Bay Commission; and officials from Enterprise Ireland and the Irish Embassy to the United States.
Guests were given a tour of the farm, which grows over 1.6 million birds each year in its 8 chicken houses, and produces substantial amounts of manure as a by-product. Currently the manure is trucked to provide fertilizer for crops, but due to the high phosphorus loading in many areas of the state this is now prohibited, posing a considerable challenge for the state’s poultry farmers.
Bartenfelder said, “We are excited and proud that Maryland farmers are stepping up to find alternatives for the utilization of manure to address environmental issues while improving the farm's bottom line. A great deal of credit goes to the Murphy family for taking the time and risk involved in being the test case for a promising new way of doing business.”
With the US producing approximately 9 billion chickens each year, BHSL is targeting it as a key export market, and has conservatively estimated the market opportunity at over $500M. Enterprise Ireland is an investor in the company and has provided support in developing relationships in the US market.
Sean Davis, Regional Director North America at Enterprise Ireland, said, “The agri-tech sector is a really exciting and fast growing area that we have identified as a priority to support. BHSL’s technology addresses production efficiencies and profitability for agricultural producers and integrators, it can also have a large impact on sustainability and the environment.”