Fortuna Group is aiming to offer dairy farms $100,000 methane recovery plants, but needs power and other companies to come together to achieve its goal.
Southland-based Fortuna Group, along with Dairy Green, is at the forefront of New Zealand’s methane recovery system to generate electricity.
While there are other methane recovery plants in New Zealand, the partnership’s plant at Glenarlea Farms in Otautau is the only one consistently and reliably generating electricity from methane.
The project has been a labour of love for more than 10 years for Fortuna Group chief executive David Dodunski.
In the past few years, the project has advanced and was named as a finalist in the Deloitte Energy Excellence Awards, which went to LZ New Zealand last week.
The methane recovery system is similar to most modern dairy farm effluent systems, except for an additional covered pond where methane is produced and captured. This methane is then sucked from the pond to a generator shed, where it is used to power a biogas generator, generating electricity.
Along with power from the grid, this electricity is used to run the dairy farm and reduces power costs while remaining an environmentally sustainable option.
Dodunski is passionate about making technology, such as the methane recovery plant, accessible for dairy farmers.
To unlock the next phase of sustainable dairy farming the Fortuna Group’s goal is to provide dairy farms with a methane recovery plant, at a cost of $100,000.
The plant’s cost would be recouped in about five years from savings made from the methane plant producing electricity for farms.
«There’s 12,000 dairy farms across New Zealand – imagine if that technology was so affordable for farmers, leading to them all supplying power back into the grid,» Dodunski said.
However, the project needs the support of companies such as electricity providers to come on board.
The cost of installing a methane recovery plant is higher than Fortuna Group’s goal of $100,000, rendering the technology inaccessible for many dairy farmers.
«This is a scalable technology and we want it to be low-cost, but we need help to do that,» he said.
«It’s an attainable future we can provide for farmers, if we can get the right people and companies on board to help us.»
In the spring of last year, the Fortuna Group generator was run up to 16 hours per day to keep up with the gas production. The generator produced 30 kilowatt electrical power and the motor 60 kW hot water for each hour it ran.
Dodunski said the team felt honoured to have their work towards sustainability recognised.
«Thirteen years ago, we had this crazy idea to somehow turn what had been considered a waste by-product into something useful,» he said.
The vision of Dodunski and Dairy Green owner John Scandrett brought the project to life.
«John is the kind of guy who looks at a project and can see it’s potential for the next 10 years,» he said. «It’s that kind of vision and commitment to sustainable farming which will see farming practices revolutionised for the better.»
Dodunski is constantly looking at innovation and how to provide sustainable farming solutions for the future of the industry.
«We are always finding new ways of doing things better,» he said.
«That’s what innovation is about, and we constantly have to be pushing the envelope of what it means to be an innovator if we are going to achieve sustainability on a large scale across the dairy farming network.»