What is AD?

AD – anaerobic digestion – is a naturally occurring process which can be harnessed to make electricity, gas, biofuel and fertiliser. Here’s how AD fits into farming businesses:

AD diagram for farmers

What AD can do for you

Additional income

Integrating AD into your farming business to treat farm waste, food waste or purpose grown crops can provide a lucrative additional revenue stream and save you money on energy generation, fertiliser production and waste management. See below to find out what’s best for your farm.

Producing your own renewable fuel and biofertiliser

AD can help tackle the rising cost of heating and powering on-site operations on all areas of your farm, even your tractor. As well as protecting the energy your farm uses from exposure to fossil fuel price rises and giving you a significant carbon saving, any excess energy will not be wasted – it can be sold back to the grid and a renewable energy payment can be received from government.

Not only that; the biofertiliser (digestate) produced in the process can be applied straight to land as a replacement for expensive and carbon-intensive artificial fertiliser, improving yields while conserving valuable nutrients which can otherwise be wasted. And as the digestate market develops, this could become another profitable product and a further revenue stream in the future, with a potential value of well over £200m.

Improved waste management

AD systems are able to treat almost any organic waste – slurries, chicken litter, vegetable offcuts, outgrade crops, animal by-product material and more. Using AD on your farm could reduce costs and greenhouse gas emissions from waste treatment and slurry storage, as well as providing revenue from the energy and digestate generated.

Why does climate smart farming matter?

Farmers are currently under pressure to reduce their carbon footprint while producing more, using fewer resources. At the moment, the production of a tonne of nitrogen fertiliser takes a tonne of oil and 108 tonnes of water, and emits seven tonnes of carbon dioxide – digestate, however, offers a low-carbon alternative while ensuring that nutrients aren’t wasted.

AD is more than just a solution: it is central to climate smart farming

What AD plants can do for you

  • Provide reliable energy to meet on-site demand, and give farms a diversified source of revenue from selling energy and digestate
  • Produce a more stable product from slurry to spread back to land, and cut emissions from slurry management by capturing methane
  • Make break crops profitable by turning them into energy, along with other farm waste such as vegetable offcuts and outgrade produce – improving yields from food crops
  • Provide bioenergy which returns nutrients to land and rotates with crops for food production, rather than tying up land solely for bioenergy production. Growing crops to produce bioenergy also aids pest and weed control by, for example, controlling the growth of blackgrass – plus it generates a low-carbon biofertiliser

What are your AD options?

1. Ownership options

There are a number of different options available for becoming involved in AD, depending on the size of your farm, feedstock used, type of land you own, knowledge of AD, and how much time you are able to dedicate to your AD business. You can build your own plant, lease land to an AD developer, grow and sell crops for AD, join an AD co-operative, or go with a combination of these options.

2. Feedstock options

Purpose grown crops, farm waste and food waste are the three principle groups of feedstocks that can be used on your farm in the AD process. You can use one or any combination of the three, dependent on your farming operations and access to reliable supplies of food waste.


To make the most of everything AD offers, here’s what you can do:

Join ADBA – click here to find out why that’s good for you

Get a free consultation to discover how AD could work on your farm

Arrange free financial advice about AD from Compass Renewables

Find suppliers and businesses which can help you, and discover plants in your area

And if you have any questions or comments, we’d love to hear from you here

Our Practical Guide to AD is an easy to use introductory reference tool to take you through each stage of an AD project. The Guide is available for non-members to purchase. ADBA members can already download a PDF version free of charge in the members’ area.

Read more . . .

We’ve compiled a range of reports and studies, for further reading on all aspects of AD in farming. If there’s anything else you’d like to know about AD and how it could benefit your farming business, please get in touch.

Is there anything puzzling you?

If so, we have compiled a list of frequently asked questions that can be found here 

AD Beginners' Guide for Farmers

To view our AD Beginners’ Guide for Farmers please click here.

ADBA's FREE Farmers' Consultancy Service

For a FREE consultation to establish your farm’s suitability for AD please click here.