The skies glowed red over Lincolnshire on the evening of Friday 15th of March, when one of the domed storage tanks of the biogas plant we run at Grange Farm, Spridlington, was lit up to create the biggest red nose ever in Comic Relief’s history (it’s official, we checked!).

At 38m in diameter and 17m tall, the tank that made a red nose is the height and width of three double decker buses. Air traffic control had to be alerted before it could be illuminated.

The switch-on of this record-breaking red nose was the highlight of a fundraising event we organised for Red Nose Day. So far, it has raised over £36,000, thanks to donations from our wonderful suppliers and business partners – as well as the generosity of the local Lincolnshire community.

We invited around 100 local people and staff members for a ‘family fun afternoon’. We erected a marquee in the plant’s grounds and put on plenty of food and refreshments for our guests – as well as a magician to entertain the children. The culmination of the event was the switch-on of the red nose, but beforehand there were a few additional activities…

Managing Director Philipp Lukas and our management team embraced the Red Nose Day spirit, by dressing up in red onesies and allowing the children from the Lincoln Under 10s rugby team – which is sponsored by Future Biogas – to pelt them with digestate, the harmless goo leftover after anaerobic digestion.

Lukas then provoked hilarity from the assembled crowd by donning a Victorian swimming costume and plunging himself in a bath brimming with digestate. He even made sure he had a rubber duck.

Philipp Lukas says: “Red sky at night is fundraisers’ delight! I’ve wanted to turn a biogas tank dome into a red nose for years and am overjoyed to have finally done it. The red nose was even better than I’d imagined. It was truly spectacular! That being said, I’m not sure I will be bathing in digestate again any time soon. It definitely makes more sense to spread it on your flower beds or field as a natural fertiliser, than to dunk yourself in it.

“On a more serious note, Comic Relief makes an amazing difference to people’s lives, both here in the UK and internationally – which is why we wanted to pull out all the stops and raise as much money as we could. I’m really proud of the way my team rose to the occasion. It’s not every day your boss asks you to be pelted with gunk for charity! I’d like to thank them and all our fantastic suppliers and business partners, who’ve so magnanimously donated to Comic Relief on our behalf.

“Most importantly, I’m also really grateful to the local community for coming along and supporting our efforts. We always appreciate their goodwill and generosity.”

Normally, the tank that made the giant red nose is used to turn crops and farm waste into green energy via anaerobic digestion. Live, natural bacteria, not dissimilar to the kind found in yoghurts and sauerkraut, is added to the crops to stimulate the fermentation that releases the gas known as biomethane. This is then siphoned off and injected into the national grid. As things stand, the Spridlington plant’s biomethane output is around 5MW/thermal, which means it powers around four thousand homes.

Grange Farm Energy, which is owned by John Laing Environmental Assets, employs four staff and supports another dozen jobs locally, in terms of maintenance, engineering, farming and support services. Its landlord is Lockwood Estates, a local farming business that also grows much of the crops that feed the tank. Indeed, the 40,000 tonnes of biomass crops – including maize, rye and grass – that are delivered every year to the plant come from roughly a five-mile radius. Thanks to our fundraising efforts, it’s no longer just known for being a source of clean, green energy, but also as the biggest red nose ever.

The Future Biogas team with members of Lincoln Under 10s rugby team
The largest red nose in comic Relief’s history