In 1963, the National Rivers Authority decided to take the bends out of the River Witham to help it drain faster. On our farm they put approximately 7000 ton of blue clay from the bottom of the river in a large heap.

They threw some grass seed on and left it, but over the next couple of years we noticed that some of the patches of grass were a darker green and a lot stronger growth as if someone had spread fertiliser on it. As we hadn’t touched it, it intrigued us and we wondered if there was at the bottom of the River Witham a strain of nitrifying bacteria that caused this phenomenon.

I was very friendly with Dr Michael Sampson, ex-chairman of ICI Agriculture. He was a true maverick.

However, they sacked him, and then spent a fortune to get him back, but he had formed his own company Mandops and he invented several classic agricultural products; Pod stickers and adjutants. Tests showed that it was a genuine nitrogen producing bacteria but we could not produce it in field conditions.

It didn’t like cultivations, chemicals or cold. We had come to a dead end.

However, in the Philippines, Professor Gill Carandang, a full time farmer, Fulbright scholar and scientist had been working along these lines and had concocted a formula to produce nitrogen forming bacteria. He produced it in an old shed like our Grandmothers had a ginger beer plant.

He taught local farmers and gave the excess away and it worked there because of the warm soil and the hot climate. We think he was backed by the Rodale New farm Institute, America’s largest family owned publishers.

So, my mind set has always been on the lookout for a new form of nitrogen generation and this set off a chain of thought in my brain, and as chance favours a prepared mind, about 20 years ago, I heard about an American farmer who had invented a machine to fertilise his crops with lightening.

I decided to track him down but he never answered his phone or replied to his letters. I knew he farmed in Illinois. He was the man who invented the “Rollaway” system for cage laying hens so you didn’t have to collect individual eggs. He had built a factory to manufacture his idea.

Having studied lightening for years and seen how it ripened crops and changed the nitrogen in the air into a form the plants could absorb, he then decided to develop a implement to fit on a high clearance tractor which had his invention on it that generated nitrogen as it goes along.

My Son Wesley, lives on Victoria Island, British Columbia, and we went to see him, meeting him in Calgary, Alberta to do a road trip across Canada and the USA known as the “Bread Basket Run”. I said to Wes, “Lets’ track this man down”.

Two thousand five hundred miles later we found his farm, but sadly Mr Willis Tellefson had died 10 years earlier but we tracked down his son who was 70 years of age, who was really pleased to see us, but sadly his wife was seriously ill which meant we didn’t spend as much time with him as we had wanted.

He was excited that we had taken an interest in his Fathers invention and come all this way to see him and on the strength of our enthusiasm we formed an agreement on a handshake to be trustees of this invention and carry it forward. We have a copy of the patent.

The original machine is in two parts. One part in Leland Illinois, and the other in Dakota. As there are 74,000 tons of nitrogen over every hectare of land, this is unavailable to the plants in its current form unless it is made accessible by a pulsed charge of electric energy.

The world spend on nitrogen fertilisers in 2012 was £60 billion and at current rate in two year’s will be doubled at £120 billion. Nitrogen fertiliser, in 4 years, has gone up in price 173% and as it is the main driver of yields it is irreplaceable and because it is linked to the price of oil/energy it will keep going up, so any alternative way of producing nitrogen needs some serious consideration.

Mr Tellefson produced this machine when nitrogen fertiliser was dirt cheap and his fellow farmers laughed at him, but he was very conscious of the pollution nitrogen fertiliser caused and there was no pollution with his method of production as he was farming on the watershed of the Mississippi River which drains into the Gulf of Mexico where there is a huge dead area caused by the nitrogen fertiliser runoff.

This machine means that all farmers could be self-sufficient in nitrogen which would be a game changer in the creeping costs of food production and is a much more important input than genetically modified technology.