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San Bartolomeo farm in the Lazio Region

by Adolfo Rosati, Italy

The San Bartolomeo farm owned by Mr. Silvio Marsan, is a poultry and olive farm in the Lazio Region, north of Rome, in the province of Viterbo. The farm started this activity only few years ago with a handful of chickens. The owner wanted to rear his animals outdoors, letting them graze the land. He quickly realized that the chickens could provide benefits to the olive orchard in terms of weeding and fertilizing and, vice versa, the olive trees were beneficial for the poultry in terms of shade and protection from some predators. So he built animal shelters, spread over several olive fields (to keep the birds in small units and to optimize grazing uniformity), often adjacent to forest areas to provide increased shelter and feeding opportunities for the birds.

The quality of the meat was appreciated by the consumers, despite a premium price, and the business grew quickly (with some help from the mad cow disease and the consequent rise in the demand for poultry meat). Now, 12,000 chickens per week are reared in 4 farm units (each with several different shelters), and processed in a butchering facility (which the farm acquired in order to better control the quality). 

The farm is certified as organic, using much more pasture land than the minimum requested by the organic certification. Naked-neck chickens are used for meat, but also turkeys and hens for eggs are reared at the pastures. There is a farm shop where the meat and eggs are sold, but most of the product goes all over Italy.
With growing numbers, the offal and left-overs from the processing, became expensive to get rid of, so Mr. Marsan decided to turn them into an opportunity: he invested in a biogas plant, which ferments the offal, mixed with olive cake from the olive oil pressing facility and other farm materials. The methane produced is then used to generate electric power, sold to the grid. The exhausted material (liquid compost) becomes a perfect fertilizer for the olive trees and goes back to the field. The short distance between the biogas plant and the fields makes it convenient to transport the liquid material without the need to dry it up, saving time and money. The farm is expanding, covering about 130 ha at the moment.