NFU Scotland’s ground-breaking Renewables Development Initiative (RDI) will open its 2015 programme of events in the Borders, with a look at a new anaerobic digestion plant set up on a Hawick farm.

The Shanks family have farmed at Standhill since 1951, producing milk, beef, lamb, arable crops and, more recently, a range of distinct cheeses. After completing a Nuffield scholarship, Jim Shanks realised the need for farmers to diversify and use natural resources to create other useful products, while still being able to complement the existing business.

Following visits to Europe to look at the technology, Jim has now gone through the process of planning, building and operating his own anaerobic digestion plant. He will share his experiences and invite farmers to see his two-tank set-up on Thursday, January 22.

The AD plant is fed on a mixture of cow slurry from Jim’s 220 dairy cows as well as a mixture of whole crop and grass silage. Heat from the plant is currently used for the drying of woodchip and there is planning consent to develop four acres of glasshouses. The visit is part of the Union’s three-year RDI project, designed to provide sound, independent advice to farmers and land managers across Scotland on renewable energy. Through a programme of on-farm events, co-ordinated by Thomas McMillan of Smiths Gore, the initiative has already shown hundreds of Scottish farmers energy projects that are contributing to farm businesses or are at the planning stage. On-farm days held in 2014 looked at wind, solar, biomass, gasification, hydro, biodiesel, heat pumps and anaerobic digestion. Workshops built around the events have brought in experts to cover elements such as finance, construction, grid connection and community schemes.

A further RDI event will be held in the Borders on Tuesday, January 27, when Selkirkshire farmer Iver Salvesen will show the work he has done on biomass, ground source heat pumps, solar, wind and biodiesel.

Iver has invested in a wide range of renewable energy technologies at his 600 acre farm near Stow in recent years. These technologies serve his farmhouse, office and several surrounding cottages. This event is the most extensive display of renewable technologies on one farm and is likely to be the only event to feature Heat pumps and biodiesel.

Speaking ahead of his event, Mr Shanks said: “Anaerobic digestions is not for everyone and it is becoming increasingly difficult to justify the cost now that the feed in tariffs are coming down. However, if you are a large producer of dung or slurry, and use green bedding, then AD does have the potential to succeed.

“The good news is that the technology is working and exceeding budgets and expectations. The main benefits have included an increased and diversified income for the farm business, protection against rising energy prices and increased fertiliser value. However, it is a 20-year commitment, requires staff resource and it must be managed so don’t enter into it lightly!” To book a place call Rebecca on 0131 344 0888. “I believed in the benefits that renewables can bring to farms and I fought like a dog to get what I’ve got. It was Scottish Power who, in the end, got me a viable grid offer to make this project work. “For those interested in AD, the people that matter are going to be present on 22 January including grid connection experts, planners and lenders. That will ensure the event is much, much more than just a talking shop.” If farmers would like to book a space at either of these events call Rebecca on 0131 344 0888 or email: