A guide to grants for poultry farm improvements

Litter drying systems, LED lighting for poultry sheds and heat exchangers are among the items that poultry farmers in England can now claim grant aid for under Defra’s new Countryside Productivity Scheme.

Opened in early March, the £5m funding is just the first phase of a £141m scheme designed to help farmers access the best technology and improve productivity.

Small grants worth between £2,500 and £35,000, and large grants worth up to £1m a business are up for grabs, with the money used to fund 40% of investments in specific types of farm equipment.

Across the whole of agriculture, money is available for things like arable crop robotics, woodland harvesting and water management, including rainwater harvesting for irrigation purposes.

In the poultry sector, there are specific grants for poultry litter drying systems, LED lighting, air scrubbers and heat exchangers. 

Poultry litter drying systems

This is defined as a “large grant” scheme, with £35,000-£1m available. To be eligible the system must be able to remove at least 85% of the moisture from poultry litter and reuse captured waste heat to dry the litter or warm the housing using heat exchangers.

The funds may also be used for supporting equipment, such as water tanks, pumps and recirculation units. But items such as top loaders, biomass boilers or systems to transfer captured heat to non-farming facilities (such as a house) will not be covered.

Producers who are interested will need to send the Rural Payments Agency an outline application. If successful, they will be invited to fill out a large grant application form. This must then be supported by evidence including the amount of energy the investment would save, how much moisture will be removed and a full dimensioned plan of the site.

 See also: Adding value to poultry manure 

LED lighting

This is available under the “small grant” scheme, with up to £35,000 available. Defra says farms must be “non-intensive”, and have less than 40,000 bird places. The system must include LED lights and a programmable control system, and any grant will also cover fixtures, fittings and installation.

The LED lights must have a life expectancy of at least 50,000 hours and provide a light output of 20 lux. Successful applicants must use any equipment bought in one set-up, at the same location. The funding will not cover replacement lights, electricity connection or modifying energy currents.

An application for a small grant must be accompanied by supporting evidence, including photographs and a plan of the existing lighting set-up, the new LED lighting plan with lux measurements for each house, and calculations showing how much energy will be saved.

To claim installation costs (retrospectively), an applicant will also have to prove that the job was carried out by a qualified electrician. 

Air scrubbers/heat exchangers

Again, these count as “small grants” under the Countryside Productivity scheme. And again, farms must be “non-intensive” and have less than 40,000 bird places.

Air scrubbers for mechanically ventilated sheds may be either biofilters or acid-filters that remove dust and odours from poultry housing. They must capture the ammonia emissions and convert the gas into nitrogen fertiliser. According to Defra, “an application will have a greater chance of success if it is for units with an ammonia emissions removal efficiency of at least 70%”. 

Heat exchangers must capture and reuse waste heat in the shed, and grants may also be used to contribute towards installation costs.

As well as the general application information required, farmers will also need to send a dimensioned plan of the shed, showing the location and details of air scrubbers and heat exchangers. Copies of energy bills, calculations showing how much energy the equipment will generate and plans for using any captured fertiliser must also be included. 

A word from the top

Defra farm minister George Eustice has warned that competition for funds will be strong, advising farmers to get their applications in well before 30 June.

“It is a competitive process and it is a limited tranche. We want to gauge interest in the items we have listed,” he said. “If items are popular and farmers find that they are useful, we will continue to offer funding for these going forward.

“The applications will be assessed on their value for money and what they will deliver in terms of productivity. It will be done on a points-based system by an internal RPA team. The best applications will receive funding.”

Mr Eustice said he was keen to open the application process before the general election to give farmers the chance to access funding this summer. Defra would be opening further tranches later this year.

The Countryside Productivity scheme is part of the Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE) under Pillar 2 of the Common Agricultural Policy. The scheme will invest £141m over the course of the current CAP, which runs until 2020. 

How to apply

The first round of applications for grants runs until 30 June 2015. To apply, applicants must register with the new Rural Payments Agency’s online service. Work must not start on any part of a project before the applicant has received an offer letter from the RPA.

For a “small grant”, applicants should complete the small applicants grant form (see www.gov.uk/government/collections/countryside-productivity-scheme) and email it to the RPA. Accompanying evidence is required, for example, two years’ worth of accounts and quotes or tenders for equipment planned for purchase.

“Large grant” applicants need to complete an initial outline application form and send it to the RPA. If successful, applicants will be invited to submit a full application, complete with accompanying evidence.

Once received, the RPA will check the eligibility criteria has been met. Projects will score more if they meet certain priorities, for example if it is the businesses’ first use of the proposed technology, if the project is collaborative, or if it will reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Projects that benefit the environment and create jobs will also score higher.

Applicants can apply for more than one grant, as long as they are for different projects.

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