Funding approved for the EnviroCrops app – a decision support tool for the biomass sector

Date published: 05 August 2022

We are delighted to announce that the EnviroCrops web app project has been awarded £1.57 million of funding from BEIS through the Biomass Feedstocks Innovation (BFI) Programme.

The project is led by the Agri Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI) with support from two energy in agriculture consultancies: Crops for Energy Ltd and NFU Energy and a software development company, Calvium.

The EnviroCrops app is envisaged as a central source of impartial information on biomass crops in an easy to access, free or low-cost, user-friendly format, that will enable farmers, land managers and consultants to make an informed decision on planting and marketing crops such as willow, miscanthus, poplar, eucalyptus and hemp. 

“There is lots of information on biomass crops on the web but much of it is out of date, doesn’t provide any comparison with alternatives or comes with a sales pitch. The lack of a central point of  independent and impartial information is holding back the industry. The EnviroCrops app will change all of this by providing users with a free or very affordable mini feasibility study so they can work out if a particular biomass crop is right for their land, their system, their facilities, and crucially, their pocket! The project should help to de-risk biomass crops as a realistic land use option and play a considerable role in helping the UK to tackle the climate emergency head on.” (Chris Johnston, Project Leader at the N.Ireland Agri-food and Biosciences Institute)

“The EnviroCrops app could revolutionise the biomass sector. The information presented will be industry led and bang up to date. The app will also evolve with the markets and be interactive and customer specific. We envisage it being a combination of a price comparison website, a vast encyclopaedia of information, a directory of all the main players and ultimately an online trading platform with a local dimension!” (Kevin Lindegaard, Crops for Energy)

“The EnviroCrops app will help the UK upscale and meet the Net Zero challenge by putting knowledge firmly into the hands of decision makers. In addition to designing and developing the accessible EnviroCrops app, we are also creating a bespoke STEM game (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) for schools and agricultural colleges. This valuable game aims to support the next generation of clean energy decision makers.” (Jo Reid, Calvium)

“The commercial focus of the EnviroCrops app will help put farmers in the driving seat and allow them to access good quality, up to date information to ensure they can make the best decisions for their business. By building this system with renowned consultancies and significant experienced grower input the system will be the best developed and relevant in the marketplace and could help turn biomass crops from marginal options into real winners.” (Jon Swain, NFU Energy)

Energy Minister, Greg Hands, said: 

“Accelerating home-grown renewables like biomass is a key part of ending our dependency on expensive and volatile fossil fuels. This £37 million of government investment will support innovation across the UK, boosting jobs whilst ensuring greater energy security for years to come.”

For further information and images please contact either:

  • Kevin Lindegaard, Crops for Energy, 15 Sylvia Avenue, Knowle, Bristol, BS4 4NH, Tel: +44 (0) 117 9089057, Email: kevin@wondertree.co.uk
  • Chris Johnston, AFBI, Large Park, Hillsborough, Co Down, BT26 6DR, Tel: +44 (0) 28 92 681540, Email: chris.johnston@afbini.gov.uk

Notes to editors: 

  1. AFBI is an arms-length body of DAERA delivering research and development, diagnostic and analytical testing, emergency response capability and expert scientific advice for DAERA and other government departments, public bodies and commercial companies in Northern Ireland, and further afield. AFBI has a staff complement of approx. 650 people, across four Divisions and 7 locations. AFBI has been involved in biomass crop research since the early 1970s.
  2. AFBI’s Vision is “Advancing the Local and Global Agri-Food Sectors Through Scientific Excellence”.
  3. AFBI’s core areas:
  • Leading improvements in the agri-food industry;
  • Protecting animal, plant and human health;
  • Enhancing the natural and marine environment.
  1. The Biomass Feedstocks Innovation Programme is a £36 million programme, funded through the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy’s £1 billion Net Zero Innovation Portfolio, which aims to accelerate the commercialisation of innovative clean energy technologies and processes through the 2020s and 2030s.
  2. Biomass crops include Short Rotation Coppice (SRC) willow, Short Rotation Forestry (SRF) eucalyptus, the energy grass Miscanthus and hemp. These crops are fast growing, high yielding and grown in dense plantations of up to 20,000 plants per hectare. Most options are perennial and grow back once they are cut to ground level. Miscanthus is harvested annually, SRC willow is harvested every 3 years and SRF is harvested from 8 years onwards.
  3. There are currently around 10,000-20,000 hectares of perennial biomass crops planted in the UK. The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) states that in order to meet Net Zero targets, the UK will require 700,000 hectares of biomass crops to be planted by 2050. 
  4. Most biomass crops are grown for bioenergy and used in power stations or smaller heating boilers. There are many other emerging and potentially more lucrative markets for biomass crops including bio composites, animal bedding, biochar, forage and pharmaceuticals.
  5. Perennial biomass crops sequester carbon as they grow – not only in their stems but also in their roots and soil. Currently there is no official mechanism for farmers to benefit from carbon sequestered by biomass crops on their land.
  6. Crops for Energy is a small biomass consultancy based in Bristol. The company was established in 2004. Clients include local authorities, airports and waste management companies.
  7. Calvium is an award-winning digital innovation agency combining expertise in research, experience design and software engineering. The team works across sectors including aerospace, built environment and clean energy, with clients including Rolls Royce, Department for Transport, City of London and the NHS. Based in Bristol, Calvium was established in 2009
  8. NFU Energy is a consultancy that has been established for over 40 years. It has a complement of 40 staff and 4,000 clients and as the consultancy wing of the National Farmers Union, has direct access to 55,000 farming sector members.

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