AGROCYCLE: A Blueprint for Agri-Food Waste Valorisation

From a linear to a circular economy in the agri-food sector

After 36 months, June 2019 sees the end of the AGROCYCLE project.

AgroCycle has been funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation program. It applies circular economy initiatives to the agri-food sector and includes over 26 partners from the EU, China and Hong Kong. The purpose of the project was to explore the opportunities for waste valorisation in the agri-food sector and extend the lifespan of agricultural wastes, co-products and by-products (AWCB). The results from AgroCycle can be utilised as a blueprint to advise future EU policy in the agri-food sector, through encouraging the transition to a circular economy.

Exergy led the development of biofuels using two different technologies: pyrolysis of agricultural waste and microbial fuel cell (MFC) technology. This research was in collaboration with the University of Sheffield and the University of Bath.

 
Pyrolisis of agricultural waste

AgroCycle demonstrates that the pyrolysis of AWCB could prove a successful mechanism in the alleviation of the economic and environmental strain associated with current waste management techniques. Pyrolysis would reduce the creation of agri-food waste along production and supply chains, valorising products to be recycled back into the manufacturing process or sold as a material of greater industrial value. Additionally, the development of a simulation by Exergy of the complete pyrolysis enables preliminary product and economic predictions, under defined conditions. Significantly, the pyrolysis of AWCB avoids the ‘food versus fuel’ debate surrounding the use of dedicated biofuel crops. The project also made vital advances in MFC technology through the simplification of the MFC design and manufacturing process. This overcomes the issue of cost that previously hindered MFC development and uptake. Additionally, AgroCycle demonstrates the ability to increase MFC power output through unit ‘stacking’. Increased affordability and power output drastically improve the viability of system scale-up. The project’s developments are therefore significant in the progression towards MFC commercialisation. This could prove to be a viable method of energy generation in countries economically reliant on agriculture, and an alternative for those without access to a mains electricity grid.

 

Educating future generations

The longevity of sustainable and circular waste transitions is supported further by an additional initiative unique to AgroCycle: an educational platform for young people, containing information on the circular economy. This includes classroom resources, lesson plans and children’s videos, focusing on the processes and benefits involved in waste valorization. Accessible, engaging materials are imperative in the education of current and future consumer behaviors, increasing the likelihood of successful sustainable and circular transitions.

Although the MFC technology discussed is not yet commercialised, AgroCycle demonstrates the value that is attainable as a result of transitioning from a linear to a circular economy in the agri-food sector. AgroCycle delivers a blueprint for future EU policy on agri-food waste valorisation, alongside innovative educational resources.

Exergy will continue to be involved in bio-based research, alongside further projects on the development of valorisation technologies.

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Sustainable Places 2019: THERMOSS, Optimising with heat pumps and solar energy

The 7th edition of Sustainable Places (SP2019) will be held during the 5th-7th of June in Cagliari, Sardinia (Italy). Organized by R2M Solution, CEA, Comune di Cagliari, and University of Cagliari, Sustainable Places has become an excellent platform that helps to disseminate the research of European Projects, promotes the collaboration, networking and the creation of market opportunities between stakeholders of all types. SP2019 contributes significantly to European Commission Societal Challenges, bringing together topics related to building sustainability, smart cities and circularity.

This year, our company will be attending and talking about the THERMOSS Project in two workshops:

The first workshop, “District and Building Energy Systems: A collaborative exchange of results on optimal system operation for energy efficiency”, will be held on June 5th and it will be organised by INDIGO. Our Project Coordinator, Federica Fuligni, will be presenting “Optimising with heat pumps: from centralised systems to district heating networks”, where she will explain the overall concept of THERMOSS, what has been done in terms of “optimisation” and what we aim to achieve at the end of the project.

The second workshop, “Solar and Thermal energy: Europe’s precious energy sources for efficient industries and buildings” is scheduled for the 6th of June. In it, Exergy together with some project partners (Schneider Electric and STAM) will introduce the THERMOSS project and will attempt to reply to some important questions like technological challenges encountered, promotion of the technologies, the role of digitalisation, social acceptance and other non-technical barriers, among which cost-reduction.

“…the scope of Sustainable Places is captured directly in the name. It involves designing, building and retrofitting the places we live and work in a more sustainable way”.

 

Power-to-Gas will help to increase the use of Renewable Energy

The PENTAGON Project investigates the potential of an energy management platform for a new generation of eco-districts

As part of the energy plan set by the European Union, the penetration of Renewable Energy Sources (RES) needs to be drastically increased in the next few years.

Given the inherent intermittent nature of RES production, a significant increase in renewables could cause further stress to the existing electrical grid. This in itself poses risks which can be solved by adding flexibility to electric loads, installing significant smart storage equipment and taking advantage of energy conversion.

It is to be noted that since 1990, emissions within the energy sector have decreased by 29%, due mainly to increasing shares of RES and fuel switching.

The PENTAGON project investigates the potential of wider deployment of energy conversion technologies and strategies at a district level. The project’s coordinator explains the Pentagon project in more detail and gives us a better idea of the main principle of the Power-to-gas technology.

What is the problem PENTAGON is trying to solve?

The PENTAGON project aims to dramatically increase district level energy flexibility capabilities by allowing for the integration of greater share of renewables at local and medium voltage grid level and catalysing the achievement of the EU target.

Furthermore, the PENTAGON Power-to-gas technology and energy management platform will be ready to integrate the market within five years after the project ends in November 2019. This on itself promises to provide significant impact for the better for future generations in Europe.

What is involved in the Power-to-Gas (P2G) process?

The principle is based on the storage of surplus energy from renewable sources, through converting it to hydrogen or methane syngas. The existing natural gas pipeline networks can also carry the resulting hydrogen and/or methane, facilitating the storage and transportation of these gases, which can then be blended with natural gas.

With increasing renewable shares, P2G could prove to be a valuable tool in delivering economic benefits to end users.

Source: IET Institute for Energy Technology

Does it require a high investment from governments and companies?

Despite requiring higher investment for the technology development and having a lower efficiency compared to Power-to-Hydrogen plants, Power-to-Methane systems represents a more promising solution due to the following main advantages:

1. Compression of hydrogen to a certain pressure requires considerably more energy than methane. Furthermore, when used for mobility, hydrogen has to be compressed to a much higher pressure of 700 bar than methane, which is stored at 200 bar. This leads to further losses when compressing hydrogen and compensates part of the additional energy loss in a Power-to-Methane plant.

2) When it comes to practical application, a Power-to-Methane plant has the advantage of being able to exploit the existing gas grid to distribute and store the gas; the gas grid can also provide redundancy for critical applications.

What impact will PENTAGON have for future generations?

Our project will pave the way for a new era of smarter eco-districts that allow extensive renewable production based on innovative technologies and an advanced multi-scale energy management platform.

This technological breakthrough will be supplemented by an assessment of the regulatory and business drivers which will lead to a successful deployment of PENTAGON compliant eco-districts all over Europe and beyond.

Want to find out more, get in touch or sign up to receive our newsletter? Visit www.pentagon-project.eu and follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn

Harnessing the power of BIM for buildings as a circular product

How can we eliminate waste from the design and propagate a more circular consumption at the end-of-life?

Due to mass urbanization our cities are increasingly faced with mass consumption and the pressure to become more resourceful as the population is set to exceed 5.5 billion by 2050. The construction sector has been chastised by many thinktanks, research centres and NGO’s as the leading polluter and waste creator. The construction industry alone accounts for nearly 40% of carbon emissions and is heralded as the leading sector to mass produce waste through construction and demolition waste (CDW). For instance, in the UK nearly 49 million tonnes of CDW is produced due to end-of-life activities, namely through demolition (DEFRA, 2015). Subsequently, diverting 90% of UK’s CDW into landfills.

Simultaneously after a long history of under-digitization, the construction industry is making a shift towards digitization and automation due to rapidly growing information and communication technologies such as BIM, 3D printing, blockchain, robotics, machine learning, drones, big data, the Internet of Things (IoT), predictive analytics, augmented reality, and gaming engines, to name a few. Often referred as Construction 4.0, the construction industry’s surrogate of Industry 4.0. These changes into digitalisation have been propounded to transform the design, planning, construction, operation and maintenance of buildings and have a positive impact on the overall project time, cost, and resources. Yet there exists a paucity of digital transformation in construction to assist circular consumer knowledge.  This quintessential transformation from BIM data, into information and finally into circular consumption knowledge is presently missing in Construction 4.0. As pace of construction sector is set to grow by 85% globally, circular re-use business model will similarly need to be embedded into new buildings from the outset of the building design stages.

Against this backdrop the requirement for more circular design thinking and digitalisation through technologies such as BIM can pave the ways for incremental step changes to embrace end-of-life strategic design decision making (Akanbi et al., 2017). Such herculean efforts to make the design decision making more circular also requires close collaboration and coordination between originators of the design and construction material manufacturers.

At the heart of contemporary self-professed green buildings lies an emblematic problem – How can we eliminate waste from the design and propagate a more circular consumption at the end-of-life? Whilst, at the heart of circular economy lies the perennial question – How can we maximise our resources life span?

To address this growing problem an end-of-life strategy is commonly used in conjunction with construction disassembly or deconstruction, which is gaining in popularity viz-a-viz demolition. Underpinning such methods of construction disassembly is circular economy thinking (COM, 2014). Circular economy design thinking exceeds the confines of previous low-grade recycling of building materials at the end of its life.

Yet, limited exemplars of building components that re-use CDW holistically and support circular design thinking exist. In addition to such, few offer BIM content to inform the designers of its end-of-life strategy for disassembly. Subsequently the Green Instruct innovative insulated wall panel which is designed to comprise of over 70% of CDW will also consider an end-of-life strategy to combat the ill addressed problem of CDW and circular design thinking.  Green Instruct panel has been designed with BIM and will also seek to address the problem of information transformation into end-of-life knowledge. The Exergy team participating in Green Instruct project hopes to gather preliminary data about ease of disassembly of the GI Panel and embed such data into the BIM object of the GI panel. In an unprecedented manner, this BIM component of GI panel is hoped to embedded circular design thinking to better inform design decision making of architects and ease disassembly of the panel at the end of its useful life.

Render of the Green Instruct panel in a BIM project

Render of the Green Instruct panel in a BIM project

From an economic system standpoint, our traditional economic modus operandi of “take-make-dispose” will manifest a resource-scarce future for manufacturers. In this context, circular economy presents an alternative economy model that is regenerative by design (Ellen MacArthur Foundation, 2012).  Such has been the thinking behind the use of BIM for GI panel, to encourage designer awareness of the circularity of the specified building product. It is the ambition of Exergy to test the ease of disassembly and to digitise such valuable information into the design models via BIM. Subsequently, GI panel encourages manufactures to design longevity and performance into products for improved durability, efficiency and adaptability, decrease the use of raw material cost and increasing business supply chain.  If successfully implemented, circular economy proposes to augment the traditional modus operandi of the one-way consumption mindset and convert it into a servitization model instead, in a way that product ownership belongs to manufacturers that operate as a service provider rather than just consumer sellers.

Akanbi L. A., Oyedele L. O., Akinade O. O., Ajayi A. O., Delgado M., D., Bilal M., Bello S. A., (2017) Salvaging building materials in a circular economy: A BIM-based whole-life performance estimator,Resources, Conservation and Recycling, Vol. 129,pp. 175-186, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.resconrec.2017.10.026. 

DEFRA Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, UK Statistics on Waste (2015) Available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/487916/UK_Statistics_on_Waste_statistical_notice_15_12_2015_update_f2.pdf

Ellen MacArthur Foundation, 2012. Circular Economy. [Online]
Available at: www.ellenmacarthurfoundation.org

Heating technologies used in THERMOSS demo sites will have a significant impact on the residential market

During the THERMOSS month 30 project meeting at Riga Technical University, project partners were able to view one of the 5 THERMOSS demosites. The challenge is to retrofit 4 family-owned detached houses in Latvia “with innovative, more efficient heating technologies and applying an optimised control strategy for the new equipment to reduce the overall energy consumption and the carbon footprint.” (www.thermoss.eu)

The study is highly significant for the project because this facilitates THERMOSS technology market uptakes in Eastern European countries. Latvia in particular, seems to have very low installed capacity in heat pumps. This seems to be a great area to develop the THERMOSS project. Installing ground breaking technologies in residential houses with live in landlord will have an impact on next potential buyers.

“In the 4 houses, different technologies will be installed, such as micro fuel cells, gas absorption heat pump and hybrid heat pumps. The micro fuel cell uses gas to generate electricity for daily usage without any extra costs, while the gas absorption heat pump produces heat by extracting it from the air. The hybrid heat pump has intelligence to define the most convenient source (gas or electricity) according to air temperature and energy prices” (THERMOSS News)

Residential house THERMOSS demo site in Latvia
residential house THERMOSS demosite IN Latvia

Next on THERMOSS

THERMOSS partners are organising a workshop that will be held at Sustainable places 2019, with other H2020 Projects focused on more efficient heating and cooling solutions. We will showcase project’s results, explore the biggest challenges of the projects, discuss about how the digitalization can benefit the up-scaling of our solutions, increasing social acceptance and reducing costs.

Green Instruct M30 meeting in Portugal

Project Update Month 30

The Green Instruct consortium meeting was an oportunity to share the latest projects advancements and discuss the rest of the project’s roadmap. The venue was held in the city of Coimbra, Portugal on the 27-28th of March 2019.

The Green Instruct project is a Horizon 2020 funded project that focuses on researching new structure panels for energy efficient buildings. The prototype will provide acoustic and thermal insulation and it will contribute to on site grey and stormwater management, through the integration of a vertical Green Wall technology, providing additional functionalities.

During the meeting, the partners had a chance to visit the Cool Haven demo site and get a better understanding of one of the designs developed as part of the project.

Currently, as part of WP3, we are leading Module and Building Design. Exergy is modeling the construction plans through Revit (BIM). The information gathered by End of Life analysis (circularity of the materials and the treatment of these after their lifeuse) can be included in a BIM platform, where professionals in the construction sector like architects, builders, stakeholders, etc. would be able to know beforehand all the particularities of the panel (amount of material required, how this material can be processed afterwards, which design techniques are applied,…). This project is one of the examples of Circular Economy applied in the construction sector.

In the next stage, the consortium will be working on developing two additional demo sites based in Spain and Italy.

RELATED LINKS

Greener, a solution for land and water chemical contamination to protect population and ecosystems

We are happy to announce the launch of the Horizon2020 project, Greener. A consortium of 17 European organisations have signed an agreement to work in close cooperation on the soil remediation project.

Greener objective

The main scope of Greener is to solve the problem of the increasing chemical pollution which threats the health of ecosystems and human population, not only in Europe but also worldwide.

Dr Mark Walker, Senior Process Engineer at Exergy, gave us an idea about the magnitude of this problem:

“Land and water contamination is a huge and growing issue. In Europe alone, there are estimated to be around 2.5 million sites that are contaminated and contaminants such as fertilisers, pesticides, heavy metals and metalloids, synthetic dyes hydrocarbons (from oil) can damage ecosystems and public health and result in land that is useless for habitation or farming.”

Exergy's contribution to Greener

Exergy will coordinate the project, as well as facilitate scale up and undertaking research to better understand how Bioelectrical Systems can be used for soil decontamination.

Furthermore, Exergy will assist in the development of a decision-making tool which will allow the appropriate remediation technology to be selected depending on the particular contaminants on the site, their concentrations and other relevant local conditions. In addition, Exergy will help perform energy and exergy analysis in order to optimise the scaled-up technologies.

Dr Walker explained why Greener is a great oportunity to protect human life and ecosystems:

“In GREENER we will focus on sites where several contaminants are present at the same time and develop technologies that can simultaneously remove all of them whilst in some cases generating renewable energy too. With the global cost of remediation predicted to rise to over $80 billion in 2019, and with the number of sites requiring clean-up expected to rise by 50% by 2025, the GREENER project is a great opportunity for Exergy and our partners to protect both human life and natural ecosystems from the harmful effects of contamination all over the globe.”

Project funding

GREENER has secured funding approaching 5 million Euros through the Horizon 2020 program for a duration of 48 months with the aim of producing advanced manufacturing systems and biotechnologies.

Meet the Consortium

EXERGY LTD, a sustainable engineering consultant based in Coventry, the UK, coordinating the GREENER project

AXIA INNOVATION UG, an innovation consultancy firm based in Munchen, Germany

MICROGEN BIOTECH LIMITED, a biotech expert company from Carlow, Ireland

SUSTAINABLE INNOVATIONS EUROPE SL, a business development and communication company based in Madrid, Spain

TAUW GMBH, аn environmental consultancy based in Moers, German

VERTECH GROUP, an environmental engineering company based in Nice, France

INSTITUT JOZEF STEFAN, a research institute based in Ljubljana, Slovenia

INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY CARLOW, a technology college based in Carlow, Ireland

MATERIA NOVA ASBL, a research centre and laboratory-based in Mons, Belgium

MENDELOVA UNIVERZITA V BRNE, a university in Brno, the Czech Republic

ACONDICIONAMIENTO TARRASENSE ASSOCIACION, a private non-profit association based in Terrassa, Spain

UNIVERSIDAD AUTONOMA DE MADRID, a public university in Madrid, Spain

UNIVERSITY OF BATH, a university based in Bath, the UK

UNIVERSIDAD DE BURGOS, a university based in Burgos, Spain

UNIVERSITA DEGLI STUDI DI CAGLIARI, a university based in Cagliari, Italy

UNIVERSITY OF SURREY, a university based in Surrey, the UK

ACCIONA CONSTRUCCION SA, a renewable energy company based in Madrid, Spain

Agrimax has been selected as a Horizon 2020 Success Story for its contribution to the Circular Economy

‘Our aim is for AGRIMAX to become a flagship for the circular economy, where waste finds new applications in the sector that produced it, closing loops between primary production and reuse.’ Albert Torres, IRIS Technology Solutions, Spain

European Commission has selected Agrimax Project as a Horizon 2020 Success Story. The publication was released in February 2019 in ec.europa.eu.

This EU-funded Research Project will tackle the issue with Europe’s food waste problem by turning crop and food-processing waste into new bio-based compounds which, after the manufacturing process, will be used in the production of bio-products as bio-composite packaging for food, natural additives for food ingredients, fertilizers and biodegradable materials for the agricultural sector.

Did you know that in Europe alone, around 90 million tonnes of food and 700 million tonnes of the crop are wasted every year?

Designing and operating Biorefineries

The Agrimax project is currently in its 4th year. Exergy has played a key role in the design of two flexible pilot plants, one in northern Italy, which is almost ready to start processing waste from tomatoes and cereals, and another one in southern Spain which will process olive and potato waste.

Our Senior Process Engineer at Exergy, Musie Tekeste tells us why Agrimax has been chosen as a Research and Innovation success story:

“In my opinion two main factors have contributed to this choice: firstly, the ambitious objectives of the project and secondly, the great progress shown since the project started.”

What are these objectives and why do you think they are ambitious?

Musie: The aims of the project are very challenging. First, create value from agri-food waste, process it and produce innovative bio-based compounds for chemicals, food packaging and biodegradable materials for agriculture will rethink farming and agricultural sector and will help to meet the demand efficiently and sustainably.

Also, design, build and operate pilot plants that are capable of accepting multiple feedstocks and deploy an online stakeholder platform that will coordinate the provision of food waste from producers (farms and industries) across each region, will make the most of the bio-refinery and it will maximise their efficiency and profitability, as Albert Torres said in the article for ec.europe.eu.

Finally, developing a new long term business model for the use of waste is an important milestone as it will become an example of circular economy, where food waste finds new applications in the market. The bio-refineries built in this project will help to close the loop between waste generators (farmers and food industries) and final product generators (industries in the chemicals, food packaging and agricultural sectors). 

In your opinion, what is the Agrimax progress so far and why is key for this project to succeed?

Musie: The Italian plant is ready and the Spanish one is expected to be completed in 6 months. I think the completion of the Italian plant just after two and a half years of project is a great achievement considering the size and variety of the consortium, 29 Partners from 11 countries. It was very challenging, nevertheless the activities have been carried out and the flow of information is constant and effective.

In addition, the General Meetings have shown a consortium committed to successfully complete the project. 

RELATED NEWS

You might be interested

Agrimax Project: www.agrimax-project.eu

Agrocycle project: www.agrocycle.eu

Food Waste solutions for a circular economy

Food waste is causing serious environmental problems. When we waste food, we are also wasting all the important resources used to grow it (water, fertilisers and the land we use for crops) and all the carbon pollution emitted through transportation and food-processing. Furthermore, rotten food in landfills is a significant source of methane  – a potent greenhouse gas with 21 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide. It really is something to focus on and needs an immediate solution.

The agriculture and food production has become more intensive. In Europe alone, around 90 million tonnes of food waste and 700 million tonnes of agricultural waste are generated every year. For this reason, finding solutions is crucial.

By 2050, the world population could grow by one-third so agricultural and food production will need to be even more efficient to meet the high demand.

Exergy and initiatives for a circular economy

Many companies are participating in innovative projects and solutions to make the transition from a linear economy to a circular one. Agrimax is one of them. As part of this project, Exergy is designing the Spanish and Italian pilot plants which are processing multiple feedstocks to produce high-valued bio-products such as food additives & ingredients, materials for agriculture, bio-fertilisers, bio-packaging, bio-chemicals for additives (including fibres) and biogas. Agrimax aims to maximise the EU’s sustainability.

Agrocycle is another circular economy project we are participating in. This initiative is addressing waste in the agri-food sector, with the objective to reduce waste by 50% by 2030. It is evaluating new and existing technologies to add value to agricultural waste and convert it into bio-products using Life Cycle Assessments and Life Cycle Costing.

The National FoodWaste Conference

Exergy will attend The National FoodWaste Conference that will be held on 27 March at the Cavendish Conference Centre in London. The event is sponsored by Biogen, Company Shop, CPL Industries, Hillend Engineering and Seven Trent – all leaders in the food waste and recycling sector.

During the conference, the speakers will discuss current opportunities and challenges in the food waste sector. Events like this are necessary to change the attitude towards food waste, spark conversation between citizens, the food and drink industry and local authorities, and encourage actions that tackle the problem effectively.

Contributing to a sustainable future starts by knowing how to reduce the carbon footprint and the environmental impacts derived from food waste. It is vital to make better decisions and consume responsibly. We owe it to the Earth.

Intereting videos related

Source: AgroCycle

Source: Agrimax

Climate emergency: towards a low carbon economy

Thousands of young students all over the world were striking last Friday against climate change. People who are not even allowed to vote yet, but definitely have a say about their own future, raised their voices out of the classes to teach an important lesson: we need to act now to minimise the devastating effects of the Global Warming.

The students protested to raise awareness and spark action from individuals, politicians and governments. Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old Swedish girl who started the first movement of climate strikes, is making an emergency call for cutting down emissions by ceasing the use of fossil fuels and increasing investment into renewables.

Renewable Energy and the Circular Economy

According to Bio Market Insights, €56 billion in subsidies from EU member states were made in 2016 to fossil fuels. In this context, Roberto Ferrigno, EU Policy Advisor at Italian bio-plastics company Novamont said in the ‘Circular Economy Stakeholder Conference’ in Brussels that goverments should encourage the transition to circular economies and start helping the bio-based industry to make bio-based material more affordable than fossil-fuel based materials. 

To ensure the future of the next generations, we have climate change at the heart of our business strategies. For example, as part of the Agrimax project, Exergy is working in the design and set up of two biorefineries in Italy and Spain for the production of high-value bio-compounds with application in packaging, ingredients for the food industry and manufacturing of agricultural materials. We at Exergy strongly believe in working to create awareness about how energy efficiency and increased profitability are linked in the long-term. It will soon be a trend that companies will get benefits from emissions reductions. We all know that there are challenges we must overcome but the significant value to be gained from moving towards business models that are more sustainable is something to consider – it is a win-win, for companies and the environment.

Interesting Links:
How to build a low carbon strategy

Renewable energy systems and low carbon solutions

www.agrimax-project.eu