Circular farming with Kris and Ginny

A few years ago, Kris and Ginny Heirbaut from Temse resolutely chose to adopt a more circular approach to farming. Their goal: to run a profitable business with limited climate impact.

They deliberately chose a more small-scale and circular way of running their farming business. In addition to dairy farming, Kris and Ginny are fully committed to alternative sources of income. They run a farm shop with homemade dairy produce, have climate-friendly fields that earn them carbon credits, and grow algae with residual flows from cow manure. 

Even the feed for their cows is sustainable. Kris himself started growing sustainable mixed crops. Scrapping soya and maize from the rations, he replaced them with crops like proteinaceous grass clover, plantain, alfalfa, rye and chicory. These crops are not only good  for more biodiversity, but they also extract additional nitrogen and carbon from the air. He then complements the rations with Euroclim feed, further reducing methane emissions by 15%.

A circular approach

“A pocket digester processes the manure from our dairy cows, of which we have about 60 to 70, into heat and electricity for our own use. We then use the left-over digestate to fertilise our fields with. The digestion process also releases CO2, which is split into oxygen and carbon. That carbon, in turn, serves as a growth medium for the innovative cultivation of microalgae, which can be used as binders, dyes, food supplements or meat substitutes. By doing it this way, we further reduce our carbon-footprint and close up the loop.”

Carbon Farming and agroforestry

Kris and Ginny are also actively involved in so-called Carbon Farming, which is becoming increasingly more popular across Europe. Carbon Farming refers to a set of measures and good agricultural practices implemented to optimize carbon capture in the soil.

“People often point a finger at agriculture in the climate debate, but carbon farming allows us to become part of the solution,” argues Kris. “By capturing carbon in our farm soil, we deliver a unique 'eco-service’ to society. In this way, we can do our bit for CO2 reduction and play an active part in climate mitigation. Which should only serve to improve the sector’s image.”

“In 2021 we converted part of our arable land to grow grass clover and herbs permanently. We have reserved another plot for agroforestry or forest agriculture, planting 175 trees in 3 rows. In between those rows, we grow the feed crops for our cows. Thanks to Carbon Farming, we compensate for about 34 tons of carbon every year.”

For their additional carbon capture Kris and Ginny are awarded so-called 'carbon credits'. Businesses looking to offset their CO2 emissions can do their bit for the climate by purchasing these credits through the CLAIRE start-up.

Heirbaut Hoeveproducten, Veldstraat, Temse

Tip: savour Kris and Ginny’s delicious ice cream, ice cream cakes, dairy produce and desserts under the walnut tree of their farm shop. You can really taste the genuine, pure flavours and premium ingredients. New addition to the range: algae ice cream!

I joined the family business in 2001, as a self-employed helper initially, because my parents and an uncle were still actively farming. In 2005, we converted the farm into an agricultural company, and I took over half the shares. In 2014, when my parents retired, my wife, Ginny de Meulemeester, bought the other half of the shares.

Kris & Ginny

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