A dairy farm with its own climate-smart ecology

It is biogas that gets the ecological circulation going on Sweden’s largest dairy farm, Wapnö. “Using biogas is not a goal in itself: it’s a means to an end,” says Lennart Bengtsson, managing director at Wapnö. The farm has its own dairy, meat products facility, brewery, greenhouse and fossil-free energy production. 

Wapnö Gård

For 20 years, Lennart Bengtsson has systematically built up an ecological circulation on Wapnö Farm, which is located close to Halmstad. Cows reared completely without antibiotics provide milk for the dairy, meat for the meat products facility, and manure for the biogas plant.
Lennart Bengtsson, managing director WapnöLennart Bengtsson, managing director Wapnö Photo credit: Monica Westman
The biogas, in turn, provides electricity, heat and cooling for the dairy, meat products facility, brewery, greenhouse and the other buildings on the farm, together with nutrient-rich fertiliser for the fields. The farm is essentially self-sufficient with respect to energy, with the exception of the diesel used in tractors and other vehicles. And even this will be unnecessary soon.

Biogas is not a goal

An abattoir is being built on the farm, and the rape that is cultivated as animal feed gives a by-product, RME, that can be used as a source of renewable energy for the vehicles on the farm. The 48 beehives on the farm provide the farm shop, restaurant and hotel with honey, and 350 free-range hens provide organic eggs.

The farm has 60 employees and is operated in the form of a limited company, but it places strict requirements for a circulatory philosophy on itself.
“I’m just a businessman,” Lennart Bengtsson claims.

Biogas production was started in 2012, and he admits that he has not carried out a careful economic analysis, but the investment has probably not paid for itself from a purely economic point of view.
“We had to work hard the first few years,” he says.

The facility now supplies the electricity and heat for the farm, and, in particular, cooling for the dairy.

Manure from the cows is enough to generate 10 million kWh a year, and an increase in production is planned. The current production is approximately 3 million kWh electricity, 3 million kWh cooling and 4 million kWh heat.

Higher ambitions

Heat is also obtained from the milking process, where the milk is rapidly cooled from 37° to 4° in order to be subsequently made into cream, milk, cheese, yoghourt and other products in the farm dairy.
Ann Christin Bengtsson, Wapnö gårdAnn Christin Bengtsson, Wapnö gård Photo credit: Monica Westman
“We don’t use the KRAV-label: our ambitions are higher than that. We have locally produced and locally grown products,” says Ann Christin Bengtsson, who is giving us a tour of the farm.

The 1,400 dairy cows are out grazing for certain periods of the day, and enter a carousel twice a day to be milked. They shake and gently kick the milking machine off when they are ready. All animal feed is grown on the farm. There is a large maternity ward for cows that are calving soon, with personnel present 24 hours a day, and a division in which new mothers can rest. The calves suckle from their mothers, and receive high-quality colostrum by bottle to gain protection from diseases.

The manure is spread by machine, and pumped to deposits in the fields. The farm has a total area of 3,000 hectares, of which 450 hectares are certified forest.

Guided tours

The farm is characterised also by an open-doors policy, and receives large numbers of visitors to the farm shop, the restaurant, and the hotel. The guided tours are also extremely popular.

Mats Eklund and Jonas Ammenberg on Wapnö gårdMats Eklund and Jonas Ammenberg on Wapnö gård Photo credit: Monica Westman“We want to be a company that is close to the consumers, with a clear focus on the quality of the products and a sustainable environmental policy. We can never become completely self-sufficient, and we must ensure that we never stop developing,” says Lennart Bengtsson.

Mats Eklund, director of the BRC and professor in environmental technology and management, took the initiative to visit Wapnö after hearing Lennart Bengtsson talk at a conference.

“Wapnö illustrates how biogas solutions contribute to sustainability, namely by creating an integrated production system in which all resources are exploited, and it is not necessary to purchase energy from outside,” he says.

Diversification

Stefan Anderberg och Mats Söderström on Wapnö GårdStefan Anderberg och Mats Söderström on Wapnö Gård Photo credit: Monica WestmanStefan Anderberg, Stefan Anderberg, professor in industrial ecology at LiU, emphasises the industrial perspective.

“For many years, we have seen a development in which agriculture has become increasingly specialised: there has been a trend towards pure arable farmers, milk farmers, pig farmers, etc. But even though efficiency has increased continuously, few farmers have been able to make a profit without seeking new sources of income. They have been forced to diversify, usually by taking work outside the agriculture industry. What we see here is an extremely ambitious and targeted initiative to change the strategy fundmentally,” says Stefan Anderberg.

He continues: “By developing a dairy with its own trademark and selling directly to consumers, Wapnö has taken control of the complete chain of value. From here, the process has continued and the range offered to consumers has been diversified to include farm shops, hotels and restaurants. This is a remarkable diversification of both the production and the sources of income. It is, however, doubtful that smaller agricultural units can take this approach: one of the conditions for success is probably a sufficiently large production base for the dairy.”

Milking carousel

The cows enter a carousel twice a day to be milked

The cows shake and gently kick the milking machine off when they are ready.  Monica Westman

Calves at Wapnö Gård

The calves suckle from their mothers but also receives high-quality colostrum by bottle to gain protection from diseases. Monica Westman

Biogas tour, 10 stops in 3 days

National research center

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