NVZ areas were established due to environmental pollution linked to agricultural activities across Europe. As a consequence, the European Commission’s Nitrates Directive 91/676/EEC first came into effect in the 90’s. The directive aimed to protect water quality across Europe by preventing run-off of nitrates from agricultural sources into ground and surface waters, and to promote good farming practices. See NVZs regulations for Wales
Every four years the WG reviews the ecological state of the territory with regards to agricultural pollution. Current assessments of nitrate pollution in Wales put the WG in a position to reinforce and expand the NVZ area. NVZ zones will potentially be expanded by more than forty times compared to the current NVZ repartition, putting tens of thousands of farms in a position where they will have to deal with the regulations.
Swansea University is currently working with Langage-AD using their Anaerobic Digestion plant based in Devon, UK (Langage AD website). The ALG-AD project has developed a new technology which uses excess digestate from AD (currently underused), in order to grow microalgae. The microalgal cultivation facility (7,000L capacity) has been in fully operational for more than a year, actively processing the excess digestate, rich in ammonium and phosphorus, both essential nutrients for microalgal growth. The biomass produced at this pilot site will then be used as an animal feed ingredient.
The work developed by the ALG-AD project is a great example of an innovative, environmentally friendly technology, applied in a real industrial setting, which could help Welsh farmers to face the expansion of the NVZs regulations.