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Winning farms|19 Jan, 2019

Bridging the gap between agricultural business and nature conservation


The history of Ausumgaard farm can be traced back to the year 1473. But Kristian and Maria Lundgaard-Karlshøj’s ties to the farm began in 1942 when it was...

The history of Ausumgaard farm can be traced back to the year 1473. But Kristian and Maria Lundgaard-Karlshøj’s ties to the farm began in 1942 when it was purchased by Kristian’s great-grandfather. They took over in 2007, and have been guided ever since by the vision of creating something future generations will be proud to inherit. 

“The overall vision for Ausumgaard is to create something worthy of continuing, so that someone will have the desire to continue after us,” says Kristian. “For this reason, it’s essential for us to focus on sustainability in everything we do.”

Kristian first learned about the problem of eutrophication through his work as a chair member of Denmark’s Sektionen for Større Jordbrug (“Section for Greater Agriculture”) during a discussion about farming with a longterm perspective. Loaded with inspiration, Kristian decided to take action on his own farm. 

We need to show that we are part of the solution and that we are willing to step into the big work of confronting the problems.

One of the key measures Kristian and Maria practice to prevent nutrient runoff is conducting farming activities at the right time – according to season and weather conditions – and with good machine capacity. They have also built small ponds on the farm to collect excess nutrient drainage. Additionally, all manure and plant waste are treated in an on-site biogas plant prior to field application to both ensure a higher nutrient uptake, as well as to produce fossil-free fuel. They started producing their own biogas in 2017, a production which today is equivalent to the annual heat consumption of approximately 2,000 households per year. 

Maria og Kristian Lundgaard-Karlshøj, Ausumgård nær Struer. Økologi, Melorm, Biogasanlæg, Vandhul, foran herregården.

“Implementing these solutions has greatly motivated us to do more,” says Kristian. “It also aids our dialogue with our surroundings because we’re able to explain to others what we are doing and how we are helping.”

Kristian and Maria have various plans in the works for future improvements. In 2018, they received approval to build a one-hectare constructed wetland which is expected to reduce runoff to the local fjord by 744 kilograms of nitrogen per year. They also have plans to begin climate reporting on their farm. 

Making the transition to organic crop production has been another key improvement, and Kristian and Maria also have plans of switching over to organic pig and free-range broiler production in the future. 

“It’s been a very big change in the practical day-to-day, but also in our mindsets. I think more of our neighbours are now considering their own steps, and maybe we have made it easier.”

Initiatives at Ausumgaard also lean towards the experimental. As part of a research project with the Danish Technological Institute, the farm is now producing mealworms for human and animal consumption. This will partially replace field-grown protein, thereby improving the efficiency of their nutrient use in the fields. 

“We need to show that we are part of the solution and that we are willing to step into the big work of confronting the problems,” says Kristian. “But, at the same time, we have to convince consumers that we have to do this together and that they have to buy products made in a sustainable way.”

Winner of Baltic Sea Farmer of the Year Award 2019 

As 2019’s regional winner of the Baltic Sea Farmer of the Year Award competition, Kristian and Maria proved that farmers are not only an important part of the solution, they can also lead the way. 

“It is great to receive recognition for doing something that you believe in,” says Kristian. “Winning will definitely help us do more of what we are doing and reach our goals. It will also empower us with greater leadership as we steer our farm, our employees, and also our surroundings towards a more sustainable way of farming, doing business, and living.” 

  •  Location: Hjerm in northwest Denmark  
  • Type of farm: Conventional livestock and organic crop farm (850 ha) 
  • Main production: Broiler chickens, welfare pigs, mealworms, horse beans, rapeseed, grasses and cereals, biogas, energy from wind turbines 
  • Key practices: Agricultural residue pro­ cessed in biogas plant, buffer zones, catch crops, constructed catchment ponds, cover crops, crop rotation, fertilizer accounting and nutrient management plans, preserva­tion of forest and other natural elements, processing of all agricultural residues in biogas plant.
  • International jury motivation: “Kristian and Maria want their farm to be sustainable and future­-proof, and for this reason they work in all fields of environment, including climate, energy and nutrient management. They show that large­scale farming can also be sustainable through diversification, modernization, and technology. Organic crop production, animal husbandry, biogas plant for processing all agricultural resi­dues, forestry, green energy, and engaging with the consumers all contribute to bridg­ing the gap between agricultural business and nature conservation. The jury also acknowledges and applauds the forward momentum and continuous development of the farm, including future plans to switch to free­ range chicken production, participation in research projects, and the construction of a wetland.”

Last modified 21/07/22

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