N2 Applied enables farmers to turn liquid manure, also known as slurry, into sustainable, low-emission fertiliser using just air and electricity. “We are reducing agricultural emissions with the farmers’ own resources. Now we have a nitrogen-rich fertiliser that is better for the farmer, better for the planet and better for all of us,” says Carl Hansson, CEO of N2 Applied.
Farmers are facing two, seemingly contradictory challenges: They need to feed millions more people and reduce greenhouse gas emissions at the same time. “Current agricultural practices result in a loss of nutrients, significant emissions and the use of chemical fertilisers based on fossil fuels. This needs to change,” says Hansson.
Slurry is rich in nutrients and has valuable fertilisation properties that are worth utilising. Unfortunately, with current practices nutrients are lost and end up as pollution to air, water and ecosystems. Organic waste also emits greenhouse gases, such as methane and nitrous oxide, turning a resource into a problem. This is bad for the environment and also represents an economic loss for farmers. Moreover, to maintain yield, this creates a need for chemical fertiliser, another source of greenhouse gas emissions. Farmers and the agri-food industry are therefore seeking solutions that increase both their sustainability and profitability.
With the N2 Unit from N2 Applied, farmers can produce their own fertiliser from livestock slurry, air and electricity. The N2 Unit adds nitrogen from the air into the slurry, which increases the nitrogen content. This is important because when slurry is spread on the field, much of the nutritious nitrogen it contains evaporates into the atmosphere as ammonia or leaches into the soil as nitrates.
“Firstly, it improves organic fertiliser by stopping the loss of ammonia and increasing the fertiliser value. This optimises crop production. Secondly, it stops methane emissions and prevents ammonia emissions, which cause global warming and reduce air quality. This can all be done using only manure, air and electricity ‒ turning the nitrogen green in several ways,” explains Hansson.
The end product, which N2 Applied calls a nitrogen enriched organic fertiliser or NEO, has the same characteristics as normal slurry but contains more nitrogen and releases significantly fewer emissions. Farmers can use existing equipment to spread the fertiliser on the fields.
Tackling emissions on multiple fronts is N2 Applied’s greatest strength. “Our technology will be instrumental in achieving climate targets on an industrial scale. Not many solutions can do that holistically,” says Hansson.
N2 Applied also disrupts the fertiliser value chain, changing it from a linear to a circular model. Farmers can recycle nitrogen from their own resources and produce a superior fertiliser using local, preferably green, electricity. Moreover, it reduces farmers’ reliance on costly industrial, high-emission fertiliser.
In addition, in multiple field trials around the world N2 Applied has shown that crop yield on average is around 40 per cent higher with NEO than with untreated manure, and that NEO performs on a par with chemical nitrogen fertilisers. This means that farmers can produce more food for a booming global population in a sustainable way, while increasing their profitability.
Market drivers for green agritech solutions range from the EU Farm to Fork Strategy to individual farmers. “Farmers are not short-term thinkers. They have a 20 to 30-year perspective and look for long-term gains,” says Hansson.
Then he adds: “Food companies, from local retailers to large corporations, also have incentives to reduce agricultural emissions. They aren’t doing this to be nice. They are responding to consumer and shareholder demands.”
N2 Applied has received the maximum funding amount from the European Innovation Council (EIC) Accelerator (EUR 17.5 million), and currently has machines in the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and the UK.
“In recent years, we have invested large sums of money and resources in field trials from Northern Norway to Africa. The research shows that our N2 Unit significantly cuts emissions and increases crop yields,” says Hansson.
The N2 Unit will be commercially available in 2022.