WG SBRI Ammonia Reduction Challenge

Welsh Government Ammonia (NH3) SBRI challenge.

Atmospheric ammonia is a primary pollutant emitted by agricultural activities (93% in Wales). Most of the ammonia comes from the natural breakdown of manure, dead plants and animals. Agricultural soils in the UK contain little plant-available nitrogen, hence the need for supplementary nitrogen fertilisers and organic manures. Not all the nitrogen is taken up by plants. Large amounts of it (around 50%) are lost to the environment as a pollutant. When NH3 reacts with the atmosphere and is breathed in, it damages the respiratory and cardiovascular systems in people and animals. When NH3 falls on the landscape, it can acidify soils and freshwaters, over-fertilising natural plant communities. Percentage of Welsh land where ammonia concentrations exceed critical levels (way of measuring concentration of ammonia in the air) has grown by 12% in the past 10 years. It means that 69% of Welsh land now doesn’t allow ancient woodlands, peatlands and saltmarshes to exist healthily. Ammonia emissions are subject to international and national legal obligations to reduce emissions. Since 2005 NH3 atmospheric emissions in Wales have grown by 8%. Cattle industry in Wales is responsible for about 70% of agricultural ammonia emissions (Clean Air Plan for Wales (2020)) with 45% from the dairy sector. 

Welsh Government is starting an SBRI challenge (Phase 2) to address the issue of rising ammonia emmissions. The challenge is aiming to find new technologies that can reduce ammonia emissions and are already in operation. The proposed outcome of the challenge is for the new technologies to put together robust evidence packs that calculate ammonia emissions reductions and are in line with the UK Air Quality inventories.

The Challenge is planning to launch end of October/beginning of November 2023. The information session for academia will be held by the Insights Wales on 26 October 10-11. The Challenge will run for a year to collect appropriate evidence based on the agricultural cycle.

New technologies will need to pair up with professionals to help them prepare evidence packs. We are also looking for professionals that can assist us in evaluation and centralised support of the projects.

UK and Wales are facing substantial research gaps on:

  • Occupational impact of high concentrations of ammonia on farmers and their families,
  • Ammonia concentration levels around different types of livestock housing (measuring concentration radius and comparing between species),
  • New technologies collecting evidence on ammonia emissions reductions,
  • Genetic modification of livestock for the reduction of pollution (ammonia and GHG) – what are potential consequencies?
  • Impact of high ammonia concentrations on livestock, effects on animal health.

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