When the water well supplying his family’s farm in Somerset was condemned following over enthusiastic slurry application by John Burnham’s neighbour, he would not have guessed that his efforts in future years would help prevent such mishaps recurring today.
You wouldn’t expect a former police officer to have a background that would now benefit contractors and large farms managing slurry and biogas digestate. But with his forensic skills and determination, John Burnham, the man behind Tanlake Flowmetering, has grown what was a small ‘cottage’ industry into a concern where his flow measurement equipment and software is now fitted to a large number of slurry application machines, not just in the UK, but around the world.
“When I left the force in 1996, I joined my brother Chris for a few years in his agricultural engineering business,” says John. “As I developed an interest in slurry application and handling, I realised that there was a need to both extract the best from this valuable nutrient resource and to also ensure the material was applied in a responsible way.”
In order to provide the time and resource to follow this project he left the family business in 2008 and set up Tanlake Flowmetering as a business in its own right. John was ahead of the game at the time. His desire was to prevent over application and help contractors and farmers circumvent complications to include avoiding water course pollution. This needed to be ‘sold’ to the end user. As to the value
of slurry, most saw it as something to be disposed of, with little appreciation of its value as a ‘fertiliser’.
“Slurry and its application to the land has of course changed from being a simple disposal chore to one that involves careful management,” says John. “Legislation has driven changes in how slurry and other materials are applied to the land, but I saw a need to develop flow measurement and recording systems before this became a necessity. Early adopters of flow metering equipment needed convincing of its value. Contractors could possibly see the value of recording how much material they had handled, but the management solutions did not appear overnight.
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