Chicken manure power as Shropshire poultry unveils green energy plant

A Shropshire poultry business has officially unveiled a new project which will see it create renewable energy as part of a multi-million pound investment.

Elwyn Griffiths pictured with some of the new machinery that burns off farm manure to create green energy
Elwyn Griffiths pictured with some of the new machinery that burns off farm manure to create green energy

The Griffiths family, which runs Oakland Farm Eggs, at Edstaston, near Wem, has installed new equipment which will turn chicken manure into green electricity.

The energy produced by the poultry manure combustion unit will be used to power the site, with any excess energy being sold or fed back into the national grid.

The family said it now has the largest on-farm CHP litter-burning plant in the world, producing 5MW of thermal energy and close to 1MWe of electrical energy using 74 tonnes of layer manure per day from the farm.

Aled Griffiths OBE cuts a ribbon along with from Ulf Meyer, from Big Dutchman International GmbH, Elwyn Griffiths and Denis Brosnan, from BHSL Group

It launched the project to enhance bird welfare by warming the air in the building in which its laying hens live as well as reducing ammonia emissions by eliminating the spreading to land of 35,000 tonnes of poultry manure across the county.

The unit will also generate an organic ash-based fertiliser which can be used by local farmers.

The family have also converted some of their existing buildings to house new equipment, which will help it run the business, as well as more than one million birds.

A ceremony to formally unveil the project was held on Wednesday.

The event, which was attended by more than 50 guests, included a buffet lunch and tour of the site.

Guests, which included representatives from key partners BHSL and Big Dutchman, were shown the poultry manure combustion unit, power and control room, packaging facility as well as where the birds are housed.

Elwyn Griffiths in the packaging facility

Elwyn Griffiths, of Oaklands Farm Eggs, said: "It really is pleasing to see so many people here. We have got the whole family here, my father Aled Griffiths, a young 92-year-old man, Gareth my brother, his wife and his three boys.

"This site here was bought by my dad in about 1968 for £18,000 and in 1971 he built the first chicken shed. It was white chickens in those days.

"This project started as a dream, I think we have always been dreamers. We've always borrowed money and we've always paid it back."

Inside the control room

Elwyn added: "Innovation is at the heart of what we do and we always try new things. It is a complex project what we have done.

"The finished article looks impressive but the work behind it is immense.

"Our business wouldn't he here today without the support of our European partners.

"We've had some serious challenges and you certainly find out who your friends are, and I want to thank you for all your support in this journey."

Inside the packaging facility

Jonathan Griffiths, Elwyn's nephew, who was among the family members who showed people around the site, said: "We've done a big conversion with six of our sheds. We're half way through the process. It could be July/August next year when everything is done.

"In a few weeks we will be trialling some white birds, and the eggs will be going to a retailer. It's retail-driven, Tesco want to trial it. It's what my granddad started with – white birds in sheds."

The business counts Farmfoods, Lidl, Booker and Whitbread among its main customers.

Guests were given a tour of the site

"We've always historically been a food service business, so you would have about 60 per cent of the business going into hospitality – pubs, restaurants and hospitals," Jonathan said.

"Covid hit and hospitality stopped over night. All the supermarkets were screaming out for eggs, so we were lucky to be able to send them to those and that has opened a few doors for us going forward. Next year about 80 per cent of our business will be retail based."

The Griffiths family farming business started in 1961 and has since grown to become one of the UK's largest egg producing, packing and processing businesses. Operating across the country, its core of operations are in Shropshire where the bulk of its employees are based.

The business produces about a billion eggs a year, has an annual turnover of over £75 million, and employs more than 60 people at its Edstaston site.

Oakland Farm Eggs recently won two accolades at the National Egg and Poultry Awards. It received the Poultry Business of the Year award, while Aled Griffiths OBE also won the Lifetime Achievement Award at the age of 92.

It was also a winner in the Innovation category at this year's Shropshire Chamber Business Awards.

Elwyn added: "Dad has always said the biggest asset of any business is one that is the one not on the balance sheet – that is the staff and the people that make it happen."

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