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Beef in a Bubble

It’s going back some years now but in The Simpsons Movie, there is a plot line developed around how the hometown of the titular yellow family has become so polluted, so toxic, and such a threat to the world at large that the carton equivalanretof the Environmeltal Protection Agency thought it best to simply drop a large glass dome over the entire town in an effort to contain it’s toxicity.

Now switching back to the real world and you have an awfully similar idea brought to the table by Daniel Larn, managing director of Willand Group, at the Agri-TechE’sREAP Conference. However, this time we are not containing a town, we’re containing… cows.

Mr Larn has extensive experience in the oil and gas fields but switched his focus to agriculture back in 2017. Instead of donning his overalls and jumping in a John Deere, Daniel turned his extensive experience towards designing a system that would allow farmers to rear cattle without as much impact on the environment.

The proposal is that large inflatable domes are placed over grazing areas preventing the harmful emissions such as methane and carbon dioxide being released into the atmosphere.

The system will include scrubbers that “clean” the used air removing these damaging particles and recirculating the now clean air.

While the goal of net zero emissions when rearin cattle is one we are still striving for, this plan has the potential to greatly improve the environmental viability of “intensive” beef production.

The benefits of such a system go beyond reducing emissions according to Mr Larn. With the worlds appetite for beef on the increase but available, and actually practical, land for raising cattle is on the decrease. Where is there an abundance of underutilised yet not traditionally viable land? The middle east.

He explains: “The demand for meat is increasing internationally but the Middle East and Africa is environmentally unsuitable for intensive production.

“Happy animals are the most productive and we saw the opportunity for ‘sensitive intensification’: a climate controlledenvironment that would offer the animals space and protection from pests and harsh conditions. If we can scale production then the units would also be suitable for temperate countries offering benefits from standardising conditions and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.” Daniel Larn, WillandGroup

Encasing cows in a large bubble dome with “air scrubbers” and their own manufactured environment may seem awfully like something from a science fiction novel but its actually alltechnology that has been around for decades. The domes are frequently used in outdoor events and have been for decades while the air scrubbers and purifiers are all commonplace tech that you can even purchase for your home.

It just seems that nobody thought to put two and two together to produce beef in. Nobody except David Larn anyway.

The plan seems to still be in early stages with Mr Larnworking with a leading university to create a prototype system and looking for potential partners and investors to get a proof of concept off of the ground. Interest in the idea is reportedly already coming out of the middle east and Nigeria.

The Quest for Net Zero

Mr Larn believes that by removing ammonia and nitrates from the exhaust air and containing the slurry waste produced, units can also generate value from the by-products as fertiliser or through carbon capture. Although technically possible at the moment, more development is required for it to be cost-effective.

“In the UK, we are working with planning authorities and the Environment Agency to ensure that the units meet quality standards. This will enable installation of the WIL System in non-traditional sites close to centres of population if required.

“We are offering a complete installation package, together with finance as required and anticipate that it will take a month on site to go from bare field to fully functional unit.”

Final Thoughts

The idea of enclosing cows in a bubble, creating a nourishing environment in the middle of a desert for example, and trapping their gasses and slurry to recycle and produce fertilizer may seem a bit far fetched but, when you break it down into its core components, it’s nothing we havent seen before and just a new use for existing technology.

Prospective wise, we are a shade more hesitant and while every attempt to curb the emissions produced by cattle rearing is applauded, we’re just struggling to envisage an oasis of cows grazing in a desert but who can tell what the future holds.

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