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Institutes of Technology Ireland
Research & Innovation

Whey and Sewage Processing on an Organic Cheese Farm

For over 20 years Inagh Farmhouse Cheese Ltd. has been producing organic goat’s cheese in Inagh, Co. Clare. The company has invested in state-of-the-art cheese rooms that conform to EU regulations. The company’s leading cheese products are St. Tola and Crottin cheeses which are marketed in Ireland and the UK. In 2001, St. Tola became a registered organic producer with the Irish Organic Farmers and Growers Association.

The Waste Management Act of 1996 addresses the disposal of farm waste including animal slurry and by-products of the food production process. Bio-processing can be used to convert waste material into hygienic, relatively stable products that have the added-value that they can be used as fertilisers. There are currently many different systems available for use in bio-processing of farm waste, including composting, anaerobic treatments and aerobic systems.

Cheese whey is a liquid waste product of the cheese making process. It has the potential to cause serious environmental pollution if not properly treated before disposal. To properly manage the organic waste from the goat farm and the cheese-making process, Inagh Farmhouse Cheese Ltd. wished to convert it into a form that is permissible for disposal by land-spreading. The company invested in an Aerobic and Agitation System for the bio-conversion of the combined whey and animal slurry waste. It was important to assess the efficiency of the bioprocessing of this waste in order for the company to maintain its organic status. Inagh Farmhouse Cheese Ltd. engaged with the Shannon Applied Biotechnology Centre (Shannon ABC) through the Enterprise Ireland Innovation Voucher scheme. The purpose was to confirm the efficiency of the bio-conversion of waste by the Aerobic and Agitation System. Shannon ABC is a collaboration between the Limerick Institute of Technology and the Institute of Technology, Tralee. It is an applied research centre that combines research strengths in, among others, natural product utilisation and bio-processing.

Shannon ABC conducted a monitoring and processing protocol over a five day period. This entailed optimisation of the system operation, sampling of waste streams, interpretation of analytical results and generation of a report outlining the outcomes of the research supported by legislative requirements. As a result of this work, the company have an optimised energy efficient process for waste stream processing with acceptable organic classification and a product with the potential to be exploited as an organic fertiliser. This has given the company the confidence that they have made the correct investment in a waste processing system which can be operated efficiently and appropriately. Successful operation of the system means that the company is effectively managing its waste and continues to operate within the organic guidelines.

Testimonials

“We are delighted we did this project and fortunately it confirms that our investment was a valid investment. I believe we are well positioned to maximise the use of the aeration system and the tank, and we are also in a strong position to robustly defend our waste management system which may become of vital importance in all farming activities in the very near future.”
Mr. John Harrington, Inagh farmhouse Cheese Ltd.

“This was a very interesting project for us as it directly related to supporting a company in the better utilisation of their waste. Following on from this project we have now started looking into future projects on the applications of other waste streams from this organic goat cheese producing farm business.”
Dr. Daniel J. Walsh, Shannon Applied Biotechnology Centre, Limerick Institute of Technology

Client: Inagh Farmhouse Cheese Ltd.
Institution:
Limerick Institute of Technology
Industry: Food
National Priority Area: Sustainable Food Production and Processing

Head of Development
Dr. Fergal Barry
Limerick Institute of Technology
Limerick, Ireland
T: +353 (0)61 208 252
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External Services Manager
Gillian Barry
Limerick Institute of Technology
Limerick, Ireland
T: +353 (0)61 490151

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Shannon Applied Biotechnology Centre
DR. Daniel Walsh
Enterprise Acceleration Centre
Limerick Institute of Technology
Limerick, Ireland
T: + 353 (0)61 208 208
F: + 353 (0)61 208 209
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W: www.shannonabc.com