Ben Berens: “Technology Provides The Fastest Nitrogen Solution”

The innovative air handling system at breeding company Ben Beerens in Hoogeloon in Brabant has been in operation for over a year. The annual reduction of 7,000 kilograms of nitrogen is already enough to build almost three thousand homes.

Berens: “We are reducing nitrogen emissions by an average of 90 percent. Emissions are continuously measured in real time. Measurement is knowledge. We would like that, but the government is not yet ready to collaborate on these solutions. Current legal testing protocols do not allow this.”

More and more demands

Poultry farmers have to meet more and more environmental requirements, such as the emission of ammonia and particulate matter. The province of Nord-Brabant leads the way with stringent requirements. ‘Resisting something takes a lot of energy. I get more energy from making plans. The Brabant promoter says: When you start, you automatically become more positive.


Broiler breeder is the most efficient animal with the lowest carbon dioxide emissions per kilogram of meat

Ben Berens, a poultry farmer in Hoogeloon

Bernese keep regular poultry farming. The hatching eggs go mainly outside. Broiler breeders are the most efficient animal with the lowest carbon dioxide emissions per kilogram of meat. This is the best way for me as an entrepreneur. Dutch hatching eggs are popular as high quality raw materials. I think the export market is a great challenge with more freedom,” explains the entrepreneur.

neutral energy

Thanks to solar panels, Greenfarm is already energy neutral. To meet the environmental challenge, Berens has teamed up with the Vencomatic Group to develop a practical heat exchanger that also reduces ammonia and particulate emissions: the ECO Air Care system. The results of the first system worldwide are promising. Nitrogen emissions fell an average of 90 percent, and peaked at 98 percent. The goal was to reduce ammonia and particulate matter by 80 percent, and provide a new climate, heating and cooling in one unit.

The system is functional and working. I think this is important. Now I worry a lot about the climate. The 43-year-old promoter enthusiastically says the climate is perfect and emissions are much lower.

Nature reserve

We are neighbors of a nature reserve. With our broiler breeders, we naturally source nitrogen and particulate matter. We want and need to reduce it,” says the Brabant entrepreneur.

Vencomatic infographic with numbers at Ben Beerens © Vencomatic Group

The Vencomatic Group has expertise in the ECO-Zero system, which combines the characteristics of an air purifier and a heat exchanger. The system has been used with laying hens since 2018. “The units clean the air out and conditioning the incoming air,” explains Victor van Wagenberg, product manager at the Vencomatic Group. This means that the units ensure that the stables stay warm in the winter and cool in the summer.

Optimal barn climate

In addition to maintaining an optimum barn climate, the units ensure an 80 percent reduction in particulate emissions.

In collaboration with Berens, the system has been further developed into an innovative air handling system, the Air Care System. He worked in a stable at the Berens Company for a year and a half. It works better than expected: Cooling in summer and heating in winter ensure an ideally stable climate and the drop is more than the expected 80 percent: on average 90 percent less nitrogen.

air purification

The entrepreneur has longitudinal ventilation with equal pressure across heat exchangers for minimal ventilation in all seven sheds. The left barn of 18,500 mother animals has been equipped for the HVAC system a year and a half ago. Fans and inlet valves closed. Four units with a ventilation capacity of 30 thousand cubic meters per hour per unit and a central unit for control and water treatment were installed next to the barn. Its stable distribution system with ply hoses for air distribution. Berens: “We installed half the normal amount of air: 6.3 cubic meters of air per animal.”

At the end of May 2021, the experiment began with the preparation of a new couple. A perfect couple in all the stables. Now the second couple is 35 weeks old and the hens in this house have already laid three more eggs. That doesn’t say everything at this age, but I have complete confidence in him. We are open and transparent about the results. When you enter the barn you will not hear any fans and you will not feel any air flow. The businessman says that the climate in the barn is perfect.

house temperature

The summer wasn’t as warm last year to properly test the system, but laying hen systems and extremely hot summers in recent years have proven that the house temperature is still 29°C with an outside temperature of 42°C. In winters with cooler nights with temperatures near freezing point, the Bernese has seen the climate in this barn always remained fine.

Fresh outside air enters the units at the front of the system. Plastic ducts bring air into the barn as large hoses circulate the air. Barn air in the ridge is extracted from the barn.

Less ammonia composition

We’re reducing emissions in the barn because drier air gets in, which means there’s less ammonia. Fewer particles are released into the air, because ventilation is quieter, airflow is less turbulent, and there is additional dilution due to a minimal amount of wider ventilation, Van Wagenberg explains.

Tin hoses distribute the conditioned air in the barn.
Tin hoses distribute the conditioned air in the barn. © Vencomatic . Group

As a last step, the air leaving the ECO Air Care units is cleaned by rinsing with acidic water. This absorbs the emission of ammonia, particulates and odor. Waste water is collected in a silo and can be used on the ground as a fertilizer substitute for crop growth.

Buy and repair

The government chooses procurement and processing as a solution to the nitrogen crisis. Only 5 per cent of the €25 billion budget is dedicated to innovation.

Sadly, the government only wants to focus marginally on technical solutions to the nitrogen problem, when a reduction of up to 90 percent can be achieved quickly and at a much lower cost. We can do much more if all parties commit to it. I am facing a wait and see situation from the government. It’s coming soon 2024, so we have to hurry, says Berens.

Van Wagenberg adds: “The minister has been receiving applications for pilot houses for two and a half years, but nothing has started. This innovative new system has not been used, because new barn technologies must first undergo years of testing before they are approved and can be applied.

sensors

It is also not yet allowed to demonstrate a reduction in stables emissions using sensors, while you have real-time data 24/7. “The minister himself holds important keys by speeding up procedures and legally accepting sensors,” says Van Wagenberg.

It is more efficient to use a much larger portion of the available budgets to make stables in the Netherlands more sustainable. There is almost an entire focus on purchasing and processing livestock, which would be a time-consuming and costly task. This is painful for ranchers, citizens who want to build or buy a home and especially for our beautiful nature reserves, which are exposed to excessive nitrogen deposits for longer than necessary. As a technology supplier, we want to make our contribution with the government and farmers.

Berens wants to be transparent about his environment and government. Everyone has constant insight into our data. Look at the goals to see if they are being achieved rather than the resources that are only added to the RAV roster years later or from which previous incorrect measurements cannot be quickly corrected. We don’t have that time.

Ben Berens, a poultry farmer in Hoogeloon
Ben Berens, poultry farmer in Hoogeloon © Van den Oetelaar

Company details

Ben Berens (43 years old) has a poultry farm in Huglun, Brabant. Greenfarm has 105,000 broiler mothers in two locations 400m apart. One site has four stables and the other has three stables. His parents Hendrik and Maria Berens live in one place and help every day, as well as regular staff and weekend assistants.

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