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Balbirnie, Fife


Case Study Investing in technology Balbirnie, Fife www.helpingithappen.co.uk
Case Study Investing in technology Investment in a biomass grain drier at Balbirnie in central Fife has not only improved the carbon footprint of the estate but has proved to be an astute cost-cutting exercise too.

Owner Robert Balfour, who farms 3,000 acres of the estate with his son Johnnie, explained his reasoning behind the purchase of the drier.

He said: ”Around 2000 acres of the farm is dedicated to cereals – we supply Quaker with oats, grow a lot of malting barley for the whisky trade, and wheat for distilling. We also grow vegetables and have over 200 suckler cows. I had upgraded our existing drier and our granary, but it got to the stage where they were simply not big enough to cope with production. We couldn’t store much grain and even had someone working virtually full time in the drier during harvest time, shunting grain around with a forklift. What’s more, in wet years the drier had to run into November. Since diesel was becoming increasingly expensive and we had a lot of trees, I thought it worthwhile looking into biomass.”

After carrying out thorough research with his farm manager David Aglen, Robert opted for a wood-burning drier that allows him to make the most of the resources that are at hand.
He said: “We built a completely new granary and now have an intake pit that meets our aims – we want to be able to dry in a day what we can cut in a day.”

Although the drier did not qualify for help under RHI (Renewable Heat Incentive), it did receive backing through SRDP (Scottish Rural Development Fund) because of its environmental impact. Use of the drier is only one of several environmentally friendly measures being undertaken at Balbirnie.

“We have three 15kw wind turbines, we use more efficient tractors and steer them by satellite, and we use less fertiliser – all these little things go together to make a big different,” added Robert.

The farm will feel the difference in its balance sheet too. “The drier was up and running in September,” concluded Robert. “We dried all our grain and saved £25,000-30,000 worth of fuel; we’ll save more than that in a wet year. Now, everything is controlled and we feel like we have moved into the 21st century”.

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