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WATER4CROPS Sintesi della relazione

Project ID: 311933
Finanziato nell'ambito di: FP7-KBBE
Paese: Italy

Periodic Report Summary 2 - WATER4CROPS (Integrating bio-treated wastewater with enhanced water use efficiency to support the Green Economy in EU and India)

Project Context and Objectives:
Many regions of the world are approaching, or have already reached, the limits of their available water supplies. In addition, the world’s population is estimated to increase dramatically from 7 billion at present to 9 billion by the year 2050 and this growth has to be matched with the increased food and water demand and subsequently, bigger wastewater volume.
Climate changes will contribute to exacerbate such already critical situation. Not only Mediterranean and arid and semi-arid regions will suffer higher temperature and reduced precipitation, with more severe drought periods, but also temperate and humid areas in northern Europe are expected to cope with possible increasing water scarcity.
Within such a scenario, since irrigated agriculture is the main consumer of fresh water there is a need to acquire further knowledge on how to adapt to this serious situation. For sure, implementing water saving agricultural best practices, increasing water use efficiency, growing less water demanding crops, exploiting alternative water resources, e.g. reusing wastewater, will contribute to mitigate the problem.
In particular, as for wastewater reuse, it should be not only considered as an instrument for producing alternative water resources, but also as a central source for recycling high value elements and input for integrated bio-refinery processes and this is exactly in line with the rationale behind the concept of Green Economy which is a top priority for Europe as well as India.
In such a context, on 2012, the European Commission through its 7th Framework Programme and the Indian Government through its Department of BioTechnology separately co-funded with six and three millions of euros respectively two coordinated “twin” projects titled “Integrating biotreated wastewater reuse with enhanced water use efficiency to support the Green Economy in Europe and India” whose joint acronym is “Water4Crops” (W4Cs). The main objectives of both projects, i.e.:

• developing innovative biotechnological wastewater treatments, even based on plant-systems, for boosting wastewater reuse in agriculture;
• improving water use efficiency through agronomics, plant breeding and locally adapted irrigation technologies and techniques.

are synergistically aimed at enhancing Green Economy in Europe and India

To achieve such a goal, Water4Crops has set up an original modular biotechnological process aimed at improving water use efficiency and exploiting wastewater as an alternative water resource and as a source of organic carbon and nutrients. This leads to an innovative triangle producing and/or recovering: extra added value compounds (organic acids, alcohols, PHA, ...) and nutrients from agrofood industry or municipal wastewaters; additional water resources necessary to increase crop yield; and energy, through a cascade approach (see the below scheme). In practice, while nutrients and treated wastewater go back to the land creating opportunities to increase crops yields and allowing new crops to grow even spreading harvest periods and processing times, new crops and greater yields promote more food processing and biorefinery activities. Of course, the co-creation of these new products combinations will lead to enhanced business opportunities.

To achieve its objectives, the project has been structured in seven work packages, namely:

WP1 - Valorization, treatment and reuse of agrofood industry wastewaters
WP2 - Innovative municipal wastewater bio-treatment for agricultural reuse
WP3 - Efficient water use in irrigated agriculture
WP4 - Improving water use efficiency and drought tolerance of maize, sorghum, millet and tomato via genomics approaches and modelling
WP5 - Identifying business opportunities and integration of solutions
WP6 - Dissemination and technology transfer
WP7- Management and Coordination

Furthermore, a couple of novel tools have been conceived, i.e.: MIRROR-case and INNOVA-platform.
Two MIRROR-cases are geographically located in the Emilia Romagna Region (Italy/Europe) and the Greater Hyderabad Region (Andhra Pradesh State/India). Both Regions offer high potential for application of innovative technologies and research outcomes for increasing and diversifying agricultural production.
The MIRROR-cases act as ‘reflectors’ by reflecting: a) business point of views/demands to the technology developers, b) achievements from individual technology development leading to identification of new solutions and new local business opportunities, c) the experience gained in India and in Europe in their respective case studies.
However, without the strong collaboration with a wide range of stakeholders and the capacity for social change – for example in user practices, regulations and industrial networks – any technological developments as a result of W4Cs’ work would result redundant with no market uptake. The INNOVA stakeholder platforms, that lie at the heart of W4Cs, have been established (in Europe and India) just avoid this. Through the platforms, the researchers are able to connect and communicate with a suite of key contacts with expertise in a range of relevant sectors, including technology use, marketing and policy. Over the project’s course, INNOVA meetings will take place, with the aim of encouraging researchers and stakeholders to share their experiences to date, discuss and work towards solutions to particular challenges, and identify further opportunities to boost green growth as part of the project.
Water4Crops, then, provides for the first time an innovative combination of several technical improvements to bridge biotreatment of wastewater and increase water productivity with a trans-disciplinary identification of agri-business opportunities and the related requirements for tailoring technological innovations.

Project Results:
Water4Crops is a four year project whose main feature is that many of its planned activities have be carried out at large- or even field-scale. The most relevant results achieved during the first 18 months have been: i) all the preliminary, designing or feasibility studies propaedeutic to initiate the experimental activities have been carried out and established; ii) all the large scale- or field- plants or structures (e.g. Constructed Wetlands) have been built and/or set up and equipped; iii) all the scheduled activities in every WP and tasks started and regularly proceeded; iiii) an effective “modus operandi” between the European and Indian consortium has been implemented. As for the activities definitively concluded in the two reference periods, in the following their main results are listed:

WP1 (1st period)
• Optimization of VFA (Volatile Fatty Acids) production from biorefinery wastewater (BRWs)
• Protocols and related results concerning the first two steps of the proposed: (a) recovery of OMW (Olive Mill Wastewater) polyphenols and (b) biotechnological production of biopolymers, namely, polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHAs), by employing the dephenolized organic leftover as the substrate for PHA accumulation
• Report on the polyphenol recovery step from OMWs and on the PHA production step, including an analysis on the exploitation potential of target wastewaters
• Insight in exploitation potential of biorefinery wastewaters and olive mill wastewaters
• Optimized acid production from BRWs and OMWs
• Optimized and assessed bench-scale processes for phenol and PHA recovery from OMWs

WP1 (2nd period)
• Volatile Fatty Acid (VFA) recovery from Biorefinery Wastewater:
- recovery techniques compared and optimized off-line
- membrane-based reactive extraction set-up assembled and integrated with fermentor producing VFA
- integrated set-up tested and optimized with satisfactory results
- adiabatic extraction procedure developed and optimized off-line at lab-scale
• Selective polyphenol recovery from Olive Mill Wastewater (OMW):
- selection of cyclodextrin-based polyurethanes (CDPs) produced and tested at multi-gram scale
- upscaling of CDP production technology to production plant achieved and Standard Operating Procedure available
- design, construction and installation of a lab-scale reactor for selective extraction of targeted phenolic compounds
• Overall extraction of polyphenols from OMW:
- sorption and desorption stage optimized
• continuous sorption plant designed, assembled and tested with satisfactory results
- PHA production on dephenolized organic leftover of OMW:
- pure and mixed culture approaches assessed

WP2 (1st period)
• Set up and running of innovative demonstrative wastewater treatment plants in South Italy
• Selection of redox mediators and adapted encapsulating systems for their control
• Assessment of lab-scale Sequencing Batch Biofilter Granular Reactor (SBBGR) effectiveness for producing treated wastewater suitable for agriculture reuse
• Protocols for pathogen evaluation from inlet and outlet of Constructed Wetlands
• Protocols for hydraulic and hydrologic studies on Constructed Wetlands
WP2 (2nd period)
• Set up and running of innovative wastewater treatment plants based on surface filtration (membrane and cloth) for effluent reuse in irrigation.
• Assessment of lab-scale and pilot scale Sequencing Batch Biofilter Granular Reactor (SBBGR) effectiveness for producing treated wastewater suitable for agriculture reuse.
• Selection of redox mediators completed, various nanobiocatalysts produced and improved process for tertiary treatment of wastewater.
• Definition and use of new bio-molecular protocols as well as common conventional methods, for evaluation of pathogens and antibiotic resistance gene (ARGs) level and removal in innovative treatments for effluent reuse in irrigation.
• Improved time-space yield of faecal indicator elimination in Constructed Wetlands in combination with slow sand filters or UV disinfection units .
• Set up and running of innovative demonstrative wastewater treatment plants in South Italy and hydraulic and hydrologic studies on Constructed Wetlands with protocols implementation.
• Performance assessment of the rhizofiltration technology for the removal of heavy metals from polluted water through CWs pilots with selected halophytic wetland plants and the effect of plant species on the mechanisms regulating N cycling in CWs.
• Design and operation of innovative constructed wetlands (HSSF, FWS, VFW) planted with halophytes, innovative slow sand filter and solar inactivate unit. Batch experiment of suitable plant species for pathogen reduction, selection of material for construction of floating plant mats, set up and running pilot-scale experiment with floating plant mats at a sewage treatment plant in Leipzig, Germany, microbial analyses for proving pathogen reduction.

WP3 (1st period)
• Operational protocols for treated waste water (TWW) irrigation technologies and strategies
• The SALTMED model, an integrated management tool for water, crop, soil and fertilizers, has been further developed to improve soil evaporation and plant water uptake. Updated user manual has been produced and both the model software and the manual are available for distribution via the project web site.

WP3 (2nd period)
• The most suitable irrigation system for the entire crop rotation (potato, maize, processing tomato) grown in the experimental site in Bologna was found to be the drip irrigation system.
• The water application strategies were selected, namely, the Regulated Deficit Irrigation (RDI) and the Partial Root Drying method (PRD). Yield obtained by PRD irrigation strategy was higher than RDI strategy and the yield obtained using TWW was higher than SW water quality. The second year crop (maize) did not confirm these preliminary results
• Electrical Resistivity Tomography (ERT) survey has been conducted in the experimental field to investigate the soil moisture distribution and irrigation application efficiency proving to being able to monitor soil moisture distribution over time and to show different behaviour between soil irrigated with fresh water and brackish treated water.
• A prototype dripper has been manufactured using a 3D printing technique. Some endurance tests were conducted showing that the propotype was able to withstand up to 4bar pressure in the lab.
• The water drift by wind when using sorinkler irrigation, was studied and a suitable model to minimize the loss by drift was successfully tested.
• New technologies using Eddy covariance, Scintillometer and COSMOS were employed.
• Results of the actual evapotranspiration, Eta show clearly that the Eta of Eddy Covariance and Scintillometer are significantly lower than the calculated Eto and Etc.
• The COSMOS soil moisture measurements showed excellent response to rainfall events, soil moisture deficit has been estimated and different water stress levels (colour coded) were calculated.
• Modeling with SALTMED the impact of TWW reuse combined with the impact of irrigation system and strategies for potato 2013 and maize 2014 seasons was carried out. The water productivity, on average, was 11% higher for PRD compared with RDI.
• Data required to run the APEX model have been collected, georeferenced, quality controlled and put into a Geodatabase used to run the model. The modelled stream network (including the artificial one), the subbasins distribution and the outlet location have been completed.

WP4 (1st period)
• Genotypic information of isogenic Introgression Lines (IL) collection based on the 50K SNP array
• Information on the level of isogenicity of QTL-NILs (Quantitative Trail Locus – Near Isogenic Lines) for seminal roots in maize
• Production of a large population of segmental isolines for a major QTL for seminal roots in maize

WP4 (2nd period)
• Genomic characterization of an IL maize collection, parental lines and newly developed near-isogenic segmental lines.
• Analysis of the genetic control of root traits and their relationship with yield and water use efficiency (WUE) in maize and tomato.
• Characterization of the maize IL collection for agronomic traits related with WUE and roots characteristics.
• Phenotyping of all 75 ILs for brace root features and WUE using the lysimeter platform (ICRISAT - India).
• A first experiment to test the transpiration response to changing VPD conditions in NILs of B73 and Gaspe Flint has been carried out in the February-March period
• Characterization of major QTLs identified in Task 4.2.a for brace roots, agronomic traits and WUE using plants in F1 hybrid generation. The field experiments have been carried out for the two seasons (2014 and 2015 in progress) in two location of the Po Valley at Horta (Ravenna) and UNIBO (Bologna).
• Phenotypically test in rhizotrons two NIL pairs for the two major QTLs identified in Task 4.2.a for brace roots, agronomic traits and WUE.

WP5 (1st period)
• Assessment of exiting gaps in knowledge, attitude and skills as well as training needs of the potential users of wastewater reuse and valorisation technologies.
• INNOVA platform established
• first INNOVA meeting held

WP5 (2nd period)
• The INNOVA process is well under way after 36 months. The knowledge level and barriers and opportunities for bringing the W4C technologies towards the market are becoming increasingly clear through the use of a questionnaire and two INNOVA platform meetings
• Especially, insight into (societal) costs and benefits of W4C technologies has contributed to the development of a shortlist of W4C technologies with business potential
• The transdisciplinary co-creation process facilitated in the INNOVA platform meetings facilitated the emergence of new innovative concepts (CASCADE bio refinery concept) for valorization of wastewater and increasing water use efficiency
• Trends and boundary conditions have been discussed and defined. A report has been delivered. Factsheets and a publication are expected to follow.

WP6 (1st period)
• Identification of customer / local business demands and W4Cs technological offer
• Project webpage and public dissemination material
• Establishment of dissemination plan with EBCT (European Business and Technology Centre)
• Contacts with European Parliament Members and high level delegations

WP6 (2nd period)
• Organized a special Brokerage session on 9th & 10th October, 2014 at the Bombay Exhibition Centre, Mumbai, India
• Knowledge brokerage event on W4Cs Trainable Outputs on both waste water treatment and reuse at the first INNOVA meeting in December 2013 in Bari,
• Special Brokerage session on 9th & 10th October, 2014 at the Bombay Exhibition Centre, Mumbai, India, in the framework of IFAT India 2014
• Knowledge brokerage event on W4Cs technologies at the second INNOVA meeting in Bologna, Italy, on 18th of November, 2014
• training programme on “Technical Solutions and Management Aspects of Common Effluent Treatment Plants” organized in New Delhi from 3-5 March, 2014, which had 30 participants
• Water4Crops information was presented to a wide audience of water related stakeholders at the IFAT Trade Fair in Munich, May 2014
• Water4Crops activities and goal presented into several other public events in EU and India

WP7 (1st period)
• Establishment and management of communication procedures within the EU project and the Indian Consortium
• EU kick-off meeting held
• Consortium Agreement prepared an signed
• Coordination Agreement prepared and signed
• Set up and management of the joint and the European project web sites
• First EU-INDIA joint-meeting held
• Regular monitoring of research activities and financial commitments

WP7 (2nd period)
• Coordinating and supervising, jointly with the Indian consortia, activities to be carried out;
• Carrying out the overall administrative and financial management of the project;
• Managing the Grant Agreement with the European Commission and the Consortium Agreement;
• Managing the Coordination Agreement with the Indian consortium;
• Managing the foreground generated by the project and eventual associated IPR;
• Managing contacts with the European Commission;
• Monitoring the timing of project activities;
• Establishing effective internal communication procedures.

Potential Impact:
• Development of innovative and sustainable biotechnological wastewater treatments, even plant-based, for improved water reuse in agriculture

• Alternative combinations of bio-treatment, recycling of high value elements and bio-products, leading to better commercialisation of biotechnology and agricultural products in Europe and India as a basis for green growth

• Best practices for improving water use efficiency through agronomics, plant breeding and locally adapted new irrigation technologies and accurate crop water requirement measurement techniques

• Enhanced involvement among stakeholders (technology producers, technology users, retailers and regulators) for exploiting the outputs of the projects as means towards food and water security, and enabling mutual steps towards a green economy in Europe and India.

Potential impact of the expected results

• W4Cs research and development activities will provide solutions for sustainable processes and products as well as for preventing and cleaning pollution.

• Making use of the fact that the link between bio-treatment and water use efficiency is not sufficiently exploited and involving businesses players, since the beginning of the project, into business development platforms aimed at defining and identifying potential new application areas, will ensure technologies commercialization and job creation.

• Applications for wastewater treatments and greater integration of research actors and activities across the European Union and candidate countries.

• Clear environmental and economic benefits by optimising the use of water in agriculture and water saving.

• Participation of industry, including SMEs, will contribute to bring a market oriented innovation in the reference field in order to address the social dimension of the project.

• A wide co-ordination of research activities in the topic area between the EU and India, which are both major players in the reference fields, will contribute to step up the EU-India collaboration in scope and scale. W4Cs will support the ambition of Europe and India to get a world leadership role in Knowledge Based Bio-economy (KBBE).

• Using the “on-the-ground” experience from the INNOVA platforms at MIRROR cases level will help to reform national (and regional) R&D and innovation systems to foster excellence and smart specialisation, revitalize cooperation between universities, research and business, implement joint programming and enhance cross-border co-operation in areas with EU value added and adjust national funding procedures accordingly, to ensure the diffusion of technology across the EU territory. Experiences of the Water4Crops project will be exchanged within the 'European Innovation Partnerships' (EIP) between the EU and national levels, in particular to 'building the bio-economy by 2020'.

• W4Cs will address the principles of European Knowledge Based Bio-Economy and Europe 2020: A strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth [COM(2010) 2020].

• W4Cs is central to the KBBE program and potentially even for the entire Europe 2020 strategy is the flagship initiative "Innovation Union”

• W4Cs will address biotechnology in the full scope of the targeted development of Key Enabling Technologies [in the sense of the COM (2009) 512 final]. Especially the application of new bio-products to bring cleaner and sustainable process alternatives for industrial and agro-food are in the scope of Water4Crops.

List of Websites:


Giuseppe Tullo, (Head of Administrative Office)
Tel.: +39 080 5820541
Fax: +39 080 5313365
Numero di registrazione: 182633 / Ultimo aggiornamento: 2016-05-18
Fonte d'informazione: SESAM