Biogas Is this Pig Farm’s Big Key to Cost Cutting
In these challenging times, the name of the game in agribussiness is reducing the cost of production without sacrificing quality of the end product. Besides lowering cost, the strategies should also be environment- friendly and sustainable.
That’s exactly what the owners of Brookside Farm, a big piggery operation in Bamban, Tarlac, have been pursuing with great success. One of the most remarkable steps they took a few years back was the construction of a giant biogas system in their newer and bigger piggery (2,000-sow level) in Capas, Tarlac. The biogas system which was built by an outside contractor cost them a fortune, some P11 million, but they are thankful because it is providing them a lot of benefits.
The owners, the Ho family who used to be in the cosmetics business (Kukuryu), also decided to put up a similar biogas system in the Bamban farm (1,500 sowlevel) with their own crew of engineers. They were able to build it at a cost of only P5 million. Chito Ho, the chief executive officer, said that thanks to the two biogas systems they have significantly lowered their cost of production, plus other advantages.
One benefit is efficient waste disposal. Because the pig manure is directed to the giant biogas digester, the foul odor in the manure is greatly minimized. The biggest benefit, however, is the electricity that is generated by the methane gas produced in the biogas system. The methane gas is fed to a generator which converts it into electricity for use in the various farm operations.
In the Capas piggery, they used to pay P600,000 a month to the local electric cooperative. Since the biogas system was set up, they have been saving about P400,000 monthly. They could not totally cut off the outside supplier because the generator in the farm has to be maintained every week. The spark plugs have to be replaced and some other maintenance chores have to be done. Usually, it takes the whole day to do the maintenance work.
At the Bamban farm, great savings are also realized. The electricity is not only used for lighting and cooking. It is also used in the poultry operation which now boasts of 100,000 layers. Before the biogas system was installed, the electric bill for the poultry project was at least P50,000 a month. This is one of the reasons why the owners will be increasing the lavers by another 100,000 in 2009 and another 100,000 the succeeding year.
The electricity generated is also used in the hatchery which has a capacity of 200,000 eggs. A bigger user in the Bamban farm is the big feedmill that mixes all the feed requiremcnts of the pigs and chickens. It is also interesting to note that with the virtually free electricity, the boars are kept in air-conditioned houses so they will produce more semen with higher motility. The semen is used for artificial insemination.
Chito says they have thought of other projects that will utilize the cheap electricity. One of them is the fabrication of wire cages for layers. He said that they used to pay a lot of money to a supplier of the cages. What they did to cut cost was to buy modern equipment from Japan and also hired people who had experience in making cages. Today, they are not only making cages for their own use. They are also making some for sale to outsiders. Because of the cheap electricity they use, their cages are 20 to 25 percent cheaper than the other suppliers.
Another project that will soon be launched is the manufacture of egg trays using old newspapers and other biodegradable materials. This operation will also use a lot of electricity, and Chito believes that their egg trays will be cheaper than those currently sold in the market.
There are many other possibilities with the cheap electricity. One can go into meat processing. He said that a lot of electricity is needed not only in the processing of meat products but more so in, the cold storage of the processed meat.
Another project that could benefit a lot from the electricity provided by biogas is ice making. The biggest cost in this kind of project is electricity, Chito says.
The company that built their first biogas system only caters to pig farms that have a thousand or more population. Chito believes that smaller piggeries should also be able to reap the benefits from biogas. That is why he has come up with a team that could construct biogas systems for smaller farms, those with at least 50-sow level. The cost of building the system could be recovered in just a couple of years or thereabouts.
Unlike many other biogas systems with digesters made of concrete, that of Brookside Farm is lined with high density polyethylene which could last a lifetime. The digester measures 45 meters by 110 meters and is 55 meters deep. Smaller digesters could be made for the smaller piggeries.
Meanwhile, Chito cites the advantage of integrating egg production with a piggery. For one, egg production provides a daily cash flow, which is very important when something is not doing well in the piggery. Just like, for instance, if there is an outbreak of disease or some other problems. The daily egg production will provide the cash needed.
The capital needed to put up a poultry project is much less than that required in a piggery. The cost of housing, waste management and other equipment is much bigger and the gestation period is longer in a swine project.
Indeed, the biogas system has been the big key to the diversification of Brookside Farm into other money-making projects.