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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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. 

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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