AD plant would be ‘transformative’ for R&R Farm

7 May , 2024  

These are exciting times for R&R Farm which is planning to build an anaerobic digester (AD) plant on its farm in East Cork.

The fourth-generation tillage enterprise, which has additional rented satellite farms within a 15km radius of the home farm in Mogeely and hosted the National Ploughing Championships in 2005, sees the potential integration of an anaerobic digester as a transformative step towards a more sustainable and ecologically conscientious approach to agriculture. This innovative addition will not only enhance the operational efficiency of the farms, but also pave the way for a more harmonious relationship with a consistent year-round local environment.

The planned anaerobic digester will harness the natural process of breaking down organic products and by-product materials to produce a valuable digestate fertiliser. This nutrient-rich fertiliser can be processed into pellets with a consistent NP and K value and utilised on R&R’s farm land, ensuring a closed-loop system that maximises resource utilisation and minimises waste generation while reducing the farms reliance on chemical fertiliser by up to 60%.

To ensure a continuous supply of feedstock, dedicated lorries will transport feedstock stored at R&R’s satellite farms to the digester and transport digestate fertiliser to spread on the farms on the return journey. During the off-season months (October to January) when fertiliser application is restricted, the fertiliser will be stored at the satellite farm, ready for the upcoming spreading period. This will effectively balance the movement of materials between the farms.

This strategic approach will not only streamline operations, but also minimise the impact on local traffic. By coordinating the movement of fertiliser and feedstock, R&R Farm aims to avoid any surge in transportation during peak spreading periods, preserving the tranquility and serenity of its rural landscape.

The implementation of this anaerobic digester represents a significant milestone in R&R Farm’s commitment to sustainable agriculture. This circular approach to utilising organic feedstock exemplifies its dedication to fostering a harmonious balance between agriculture and the natural world.

Currently, R&R Farm is implementing a range of sustainable farming methods to maximise carbon capture. These include:

  • Cover cropping: R&R Farm grows cover crops, such as clover, between cash crops to help protect the soil, reduce erosion and improve water retention.
  • Reduced tillage: The farm uses reduced tillage or no-till methods to minimise soil disturbance and reduce the risk of greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Rotational cropping: The farm rotates its crops to help maintain soil fertility and reduce the incidence of pests and diseases.

R&R Farm is also committed to implementing new technologies as they arise, such as precision agriculture and soil health monitoring tools. These tools can help to improve its farm management practices and further reduce its environmental impact. By embracing innovation and implementing sustainable practices, the East Cork operation can help to ensure that agriculture remains a vital and sustainable part of our economy and our ecosystem.

“Anaerobic digesters are a no-brainer for tillage farmers. I don’t think we do enough in this country to promote or encourage them. The addition of the digester will allow for more consistent employment on the farm throughout the year,” R&R Farm project manager David Casey says.

“We propose using our own organic produce as feedstock, using as little as 35% of the farm. We’ll also use organic by-products from local companies like Irish Distillers Midleton, Diarygold in Mogeely and  Meadowfresh Foods in Tallow, Co. Waterford as well as manure from local dairy farms and O’Brien’s Piggery just 200 metres form the home farm. In addition to bio-fertiliser, the digester will produce biomethane with a direct connection to Gas Networks Ireland’s national grid in Mogeely, we will be producing enough biomethane to run 6,000 homes.”

R&R Farm is a large tillage enterprise fronted by brothers Ricky and Robin Forrest. They grow barley, wheat, maize, rape and oats on 2,200 acres, 1,700 of which is rented. R&R Farm is also a leading groundwork  and civil engineering contractor which has an array of machinery to carry out all types of works. These include a modern fleet of JCB and Hidromek excavators, dumpers and compaction equipment as well as DAF and Mercedes artic trucks for transportation. On the farm, they run a fleet of CLAAS and Fendt tractors with GPS systems, a CLAAS combine harvester (a second combine is used during harvest), a Cross Chaser Bin and an assortment of tillage and spraying equipment.

All machines are serviced regularly to ensure there is no such thing as downtime. Most maintenance is carried out in house with ECI JCB being R&R Farm’s largest supplier.

On the civils side of things, R&R Farm enjoys a long-standing working relationship with local company Irish Distillers working as a subcontractor to PJ Hegarty. It carried out all the groundworks at the new Midleton Distillery Experience which brings together all of Irish Distillers’ whiskey portfolio, including Jameson, Redbreast, Midleton Very Rare, Powers, The Spots Whiskeys, Method & Madness and Knappogue Castle. The upgraded experience has the potential to welcome more than 200,000 visitors per year and will position Midleton Distillery as one of the top tourism attractions in Ireland, while supporting jobs and economic growth in the East Cork region.

“Working as a subcontractor to PJ Hegarty, we do a lot of ongoing maintenance work for Irish Distillers in Midleton and we’re also the groundworks contractor for their new storage facility in Dungourney. In addition, we did all the groundwork for the new Midleton-Youghal Greenway which is 23km long. We also completed the groundworks for IQ Solar Ltd, a large solar farm near Crocane, Co. Cork,” David explains.

“Our clients choose us because of the pride we take in our work, our experience and knowledge, our excellent safety record and our ability to complete projects within tight timeframes and on budget.”

Between the farm and the civil contracting, 55 people are employed. One of the employees is 32-year-old Mike Browne who has enjoyed a rapid rise through the road racing ranks to the extent where he can now call himself a podium finisher at the Isle of Man TT Races, a double Manx Grand Prix winner and the fastest Southern Irishman ever to have lapped the TT Mountain Course.

“We are proud to support Mike in his road racing career. He is a valued member of our team of farm and civils personnel. We would love to see new sponsors come on board for 2024 as Mike prepares for the Northwest 200 and the 2024 Isle of Man TT among other races,” David adds.

As R&R Farm continues to go from strength to strength, Ricky and Robin Forrest would like to take this opportunity to thank their clients and suppliers for their continued support as well as their staff for their hard work, dedication and expertise.

R&R Farm Ltd




Co. Cork,

P25 F951.

Telephone: 021 464 4030

Email: [email protected]

First published in Irish Tractor & Agri magazine Vol 12 No 1, March/April 2024