Carter Jonas
Carter Jonas

24 ‘Carrot’ advice from Carter Jonas

An anaerobic digester powered by maize, vegetable peelings and carrot tops is helping to drive a £30m food business in Selby.

When award-winning MH Poskitt Limited was looking to harness its waste to produce its own power, it turned to the planning and energy experts at Carter Jonas.

The family owned farming business based near Selby specialises in growing root vegetables for leading supermarkets. Having grown from a small operation, the farm now produces more than 50,000 tonnes of carrots each year, as well as pumpkins, potatoes, swedes and parsnips and employs 200 people.

Vegetable preparation was brought in-house four years ago, enabling third generation farmer and managing director Guy Poskitt to cut costs and help the environment at the same time. The business now dices, slices and grates some of the carrots for the pre-packaged market which means they can also use more of the crop and reduce wastage.

Searching for ways to use any remaining vegetable waste, Guy Poskitt asked Carter Jonas to investigate the feasibility of an onsite anaerobic digester to use maize, carrot tops and peeling to make methane.

Against tight timescales created by a planned reduction in incentives, Carter Jonas, in conjunction with Rob Heap Consulting, conducted a feasibility study on the potential of an anaerobic digestion facility, undertaking a screening study, as well as liaising with potential technology providers and technical consultants.

On completion, Carter Jonas submitted a full planning application for the development and liaised with planning officers to address questions and concerns raised by local residents and the parish council.

Work commenced on site four months later enabling MH Poskitt to take advantage of the higher incentive rate and to enable construction of silage clamps to store the first crop of maize. The project went live on 7th May 2015

and has now been operating successful for over seven months. Other than minor tweaks to the system, expected for any AD scheme, there have been no problems with operation and the system is running at near 100% capacity, 24 hours a day. The project is an excellent example of some of the key elements that will make a successful AD project; a committed and enthusiastic owner, a strong team of professional support, secure and cost effective feedstock and a pre-existing onsite energy demand.

While the Feed-in-Tariff rates remain relatively low for anaerobic digestion, projects can still make good financial sense. Furthermore, the recent announcements on the FiT consultation have confirmed than pre-accreditation will be re-introduced for anaerobic digestion, giving security for investors while a project is being developed and built out.Says Guy Poskitt: “By getting our prepared business under one roof we had already reduced our carbon footprint and road miles generated as part of the process. And now we’ve moved even further towards self-sufficiency. We used to throw a lot of our carrots away. Now we use the tops and peelings, along with maize to power a unit which sends electricity to the grid and hot water and heat to the business and farmhouse - better for us and the environment. Carter Jonas helped me turn an idea into reality, exploring avenues outside a normal farmers remit.”

Says James Robinson of Carter Jonas: “Over the last few years we have seen an increase in businesses wishing to become self-sufficient. Working with MH Poskitt is a prime example of how a problem such as waste can be transformed into a beneficial solution for both the business and the environment. The timescales on this project were challenging however we are pleased that Guy is already starting to see the benefits for his business.”

Guy Poskitt was national vegetable grower of the year in 2004 and 2010 and Farmers Weekly Arable Farmer of the Year and Overall Farmer of the Year in 2012.