FINLAND – Valio, a leading Finnish farmer-owned dairy, together with VTT, a leading research institution in Finland, have come together to explore possibilities of reducing methane attributed to dairy production activities.

The two are participating in an international research project that intends to convert methane produced from dairy processing in Europe into less harmless carbon dioxide using plasma technology.

This project is funded by the European Union and has participants from top universities, researchers, and knowledge transfer partners from Belgium, England, Germany, and the Netherlands.

In Finland, methane emissions generated from milk production account for about 50% of milk’s carbon footprint.

The research project, CANMILK, intends to develop equipment that can convert methane in barn air into less harmful carbon dioxide.

The EU area has about 1.8 million cattle farms which harbor a total of 77 million cows that produce 158 tonnes of CO2e of methane every year, with one cow producing about 15kg of methane every year.

Agriculture as a whole, accounts for 10% of the EU’s greenhouse emissions while methane generated by these cows accounts for 43%  of agricultural emissions.

VTT started this project last year by measuring and identifying gas mixtures in barn air which they carried out in Valio’s Arvela dairy farm in Pöytyä, Finland, where 240 cows inhabit.

“Our goal is to develop a new, eco-friendly, cost-effective technological solution that captures and breaks down the methane in barn air. This would enable us to cut the amount of barn air methane that ends up in the atmosphere by as much as 90%.

When we convert the methane released in barn air into carbon dioxide, the more potent warming effect of methane is decreased. This, in turn, reduces the climate impacts of milk production by an estimated 30-40%,” says Juha Nousiainen, Valio’s Senior Vice President.

Valio’s goals align with the European Union Fit for 55 package which also aims for carbon neutrality in the agriculture sector by 2035.

Through the use of cold plasma, the organization hope to come up with a technology that will break down methane in barn air into carbon dioxide which is less harmful. This process naturally occurs but usually takes about 10-12 years.

“Cold plasma is used to break down methane by exciting the gas molecules in the barn air to react with the methane. This is done using electricity in a unit located outside the barn,” said Senior Advisor Pekka Simell from VTT.

Valio’s ambitious climate program consists of concrete actions to cut milk’s carbon footprint to zero by 2035 ahead of EU wide goal of 2050.

Other companies in the dairy sector also have sustainability goals for instance Danone with their recent announcement to reduce methane emissions by 30% come 2030.

Nestle and Fonterra also recently formed an alliance to reduce a New Zealand dairy farm’s emissions by 30% by mid-2027 and achieve net zero emissions in 10 years.

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