Jim Shanks publishes his report for The Trehane Trust on Energy from Agriculture


In January 2009, the Trehane Trust and the Nuffield Farming Scholarships Trust put their faith in me by awarding me a Scholarship.  It was a pivotal moment in my personal and business development.  I hope I can inspire others to embrace the change and push the boundaries of achievement within British agriculture to new levels. 
I milk 220 Holsteins at Hawick in the Scottish Borders.  Since returning from college in 1998, I have worked together with my family to build the business which involved the installation of new parlour, cubicles and silage pits.  However the most noticeable change is the production of cheese on farm which has been managed by my parents with all the cheese sold locally.  Milk is sold on contract to Tesco.  The 204 ha of arable land surrounding the farm is used predominantly for the stock rations with any surplus being sold into local feed markets.  
Dairy farming however, is my ultimate passion.  It provides me with the excitement to get me out of bed in the morning and needless to say, also provides me with the stress that sometimes keeps me up at night.  It allows me to harness the new ideas I have and at the same time will always keep my feet on the ground.  Having been fortunate enough to grow up in the Scottish Borders, my emotional connection to the land, the animals and the farming industry is as strong as ever and I’m sure will remain so. 
My interest in energy was triggered as recently as 3 years ago when I investigated the prospect of installing an energy generating device to lower electrical consumption on farm.   While I realised fairly quickly this was not economically viable on such a small scale, a passion had been ignited that was to grow and grow.  I found that while there was little point trying to generate energy on a small scale; the potential to save energy was there and more importantly, the prospect of using my natural resources to create electricity and develop another income for the business was staring me square in the face.  Throughout my Nuffield studies, I have become more and more fascinated with the concept of generating energy on farm.  
Numerous people have expressed grave concerns to me over the moral dilemma that surrounds the usage of agricultural land for energy generation.  However I see it as simply not a choice between food production and energy production.  Many of the systems I have seen on my travels integrated both food and energy production side by side.  While I would not underestimate the difficulty that the agricultural industry faces over the next 50 years to provide food for 9 billion people, the challenge stretches way beyond the demands that have been put on farmers in the past.  The challenge for agriculture in the next 50 years in stark.   Global agriculture must provide 100% of the world’s food as well as 60% of the world’s energy.   
My Trehane Trust Nuffield Scholarship will explain my views as to why this is attainable, how it is attainable and why we as farmers are in a fantastic position to make a dramatic impact on energy supply that will shape the path of the 21st century and beyond. 

Read the full report here