1/2 Farmer Kees has been using Kopros from Edgar and Oscar for a year now at their company Novus AgroEcology (photo: Collin Beijk).
Oscar and Edgar van Nunen from Tilburg are convinced that they can solve a large part of the nitrogen problem with bacteria. With the Kopros product, they reduce ammonia emissions from cow manure, which results in much more than just a nitrogen reduction. Only the government does not yet believe in Swiss technology. “While it’s simple, we take the soil process from the pasture to the barn.”
Edgar discovered Kopros more than three years ago at a trade fair for climate innovations. “The drug has been used on hundreds of farms in Switzerland for years.” According to the brothers, it is a microbiological solution that promotes circulation and production on dairy farms.
Water containing good bacteria is sprayed on the stable floor every four weeks. “Organic remains are broken down and converted into another form, just like nature itself does in soil,” explains Edgar. It costs the farmer about four euros per cow per month.
“There is skepticism because the government doesn’t recognize it.”
Farmer Kees Vonk from Tilburg has been using the product for a year now and is completely convinced. “But fellow farmers are skeptical. Because the government does not recognize Kopros as a method to reduce nitrogen emissions from stables.”
That is a problem, because Brabant livestock farmers must apply for a new permit from the province for a low-emission barn before April 2023. Because, according to the Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food, Kopros is not a system that can be built into the barn, it does not appear on the so-called RAV list. A list of government-approved systems. That is why this method of nitrogen reduction does not count.
Farmers who successfully use the product must therefore invest in other barn modifications. Whether this will happen on a large scale remains to be seen. There is great uncertainty among livestock farmers as to whether they can continue farming at their current location. In addition, the application for a loan for stable adaptations is quite complicated.
“It cuts costs and is good for the health of the cows.”
Nevertheless, the Nunen brothers now count ten farmers as their customers. “Since we use this solution, the cows have fewer hoof infections and their udder health has also improved,” explains farmer Kees. “The product further reduces the costs of purchasing concentrates and fertilizers.”
The latter has to do with the improved quality of the organic manure. “Converting natural manure into good nutrients in the soil often takes months. Now, with the help of Kopros, this conversion already takes place in the stable. That ensures better yields from the land and better own feed. It becomes much more like a cycle.” “, explains Oscar van Nunen.
“The manure doesn’t smell at all anymore.”
And then there is another huge advantage, says Boer Harrie van Gorkum from Tilburg. “It doesn’t smell. I was applying the manure and normally the cyclists here race past the meadow because it smells so bad. Now they don’t even notice it and no ammonia is measured when I inject manure on the land.”
The brothers claim that Kopros produces ammonia emissions of an average of 4 kilos per animal per year. Normally that is about 13 kilos per year. Oscar and Edgar had measurements performed by EnviVice. An agency that also took measurements for nitrogen-saving measures that have been recognized by the government.
“It seems that innovations from small parties don’t stand a chance.”
Hans Schiricke of EnviVice has measured the ammonia emissions of four farmers who use Kopros. “These are interim measurements, but measured in a year they will not turn out completely different. Sometimes it seems as if the government does not give small parties a chance with these kinds of innovations.”
Kopros was assessed as a good nitrogen measure in an interim report by the Agricultural Innovation Brabant Steering Group. Yet it did not receive the necessary approvals and subsidies. “Frustrating, because research by the University of Wageningen to demonstrate the value of Kopros costs tons and we can’t afford that yet,” Oscar explains. “It seems to be the saying, what the farmer does not know, he does not eat.”