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Innovative approaches to turn agricultural waste into ecological and economic assets

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - NoAW (Innovative approaches to turn agricultural waste into ecological and economic assets)

Reporting period: 2018-04-01 to 2019-09-30

AD-Anaerobic Digestion; GHG-Green House Gas; KESP-Knowledge Exchange Stakeholders Platform; LCA-Life Cycle Analysis; MCE-Multi-Criteria Evaluation; PHA-Polyhydroxyalcanoate; SA-Succinic Acid; SEA-Strategic Environmental Assessment; TM- Territorial Metabolism; TRL-Technological Readiness Level; WP-Work Package; VFA-Volatile Fatty Acids

NoAW: No Agro-Waste. Innovative approaches to turn agricultural waste into ecological and economic assets (Fig.1).

Driven by a near zero-waste goal, NoAW aims to generate innovative efficient approaches to convert growing agricultural waste issues into eco-efficient bioenergy and biobased products with direct benefits for the environment, economy and consumer.
NoAW’s concept relies on developing holistic life cycle thinking to support environmentally responsible R&D innovations on agro-waste conversion at different TRLs, in light of regional and seasonal specificities, not forgetting risks emerging from circular management of agro-wastes (e.g. contaminant accumulation) and opportunities generated by organic agriculture.
By involving all agriculture chain stakeholders in a territorial perspective, NoAW will:
1) develop innovative eco-design and hybrid assessment tools of circular agro-waste management strategies and address related knowledge and data gaps via extensive KESP exchange;
2) develop breakthrough knowledge on agro-waste molecular complexity and heterogeneity to upgrade the most widespread mature waste conversion technology (AD) and synergistically eco-design robust cascading processes, to fully convert agro-waste into a set of high added value bioenergy, biofertilizers, biochemicals and building blocks (Fig.2) replacing a significant range of non-renewable equivalents, with favourable air, water and soil impacts;
3) get insights on the complexity of potentially new, cross-sector business clusters, in order to fast-track NoAW strategies and develop new business concepts and stakeholder platforms for cross-chain valorisation of agro-waste on a territorial and seasonal basis.
NoAW‘s outstanding network of experts from 16 academic and 16 private partners features multidisciplinary, synergistic skills & shared interests, from Europe and China (Fig.3).
NoAW is structured around 5 S&T WPs plus 3 WPs dedicated to demonstration, dissemination & management (Fig.4).
WP1 overachieved objectives in terms of stakeholder mobilisation. Surveys brought new information on stakeholder concerns and expectations, and addressed application of the project’s outcomes. Data management tools and harmonized terminology on key indicators and methodology were applied.
In WP2, approaches and tools to assess & evaluate agro-waste management strategies were developed & applied to NoAW case studies. This included LCA coupled to TM, MCE in SEA for agro-waste management plans and argumentation & social choice. Results were developed into decision-support that has also been applied within the NoAW project (Fig.5).
WP3 activities demonstrated the possibility to: optimize nutrient load by safe use of AD digestate on fields (Fig.6); produce biohythane (mix of H2/CH4) from winery waste, cattle manure, straw & other agro-waste (Fig.7); produce PHA from VFAs derived from agro-wastes fermentation in a pilot-scale platform (Fig.8); pretreat lignocellulosic biomass making it more available for biogas production.
In WP4, different cascading activities (Fig.9) on valorization of winery, fruit & vegetable wastes, AD-derived digestate & VFAs, have progressed (Fig.10). Extraction of polyphenols from winery wastes was optimized resulting different products: active coating for packaging, new biobased resins & polyesters, new biocomposites (Fig.11). Other results are SA production from agro-waste, solid AD digestate use for biofuels & biochar production, while VFA concentration and photofermentation for PHA production are under development.
WP5 assessed the potential of industrial application of agro-waste derived PHAs, biocomposites and epoxy resins. A market study confirmed a high relevancy of cost estimates when implemented at large scale. By appropriate industrial scale process-design, we estimated production costs for technology options and expected bottom prices for the product.
In WP6, promising technological pathways to be up-scaled were identified based on WP3 and WP4’s experimental results, leading to a new generation of PHA-based active packaging and biocomposites accessible for industry.
Stakeholder Events, videos and social media activity & conventional dissemination actions (e.g. papers, workshops, research summary sheets etc.) reached over 19000 stakeholders (WP7) (Fig.12-13).
NoAW aims to turn agricultural primary residues into resources, locally and smartly converting them (ca. 75%) into fertilizers, energy, materials & molecules. By taking a large market share of total energy consumption (ca. 4% of 1500 MTOE), production of packaging materials (ca. 20% of 80 MTOE) and other chemicals, these agro-waste end-products are expected to help reach a 20% target of renewable energy (2009/28/EC) and materials as well as reducing global warming. Eco-efficient and flexible NoAW AD plants should reduce by 30% manure-storage impact on GHG emission (CH4 & N2O), otherwise released upon field application. NoAW biomaterials, such as SA and PHA, should avert 55% of GHG compared to equivalent fossil products.
NoAW experimental platforms (TRL6) aim to increase by 20% biogas production (currently 47000 GWh/y). By decreasing PHA cost by 30%, NoAW will offer a larger PHA market (60-80 kg PHA/ton waste), while maintaining significant economic gain with respect to biogas (>2000€/ton PHA, 2x higher than biogas, fertilizer & electricity). Waste biorefineries will favour decentralized production facilities, for new income and employment opportunities in rural areas.
NoAW conversion chains will return nutrients to land where manure potential is poor. By using AD to treat manure, N availability is increased by 5-20% which could reduce by 10% mineral fertilizer use (decrease of 3-5 Mt CO2/y). A local and full-scale case study of AD nutrient delivery optimization (Fig.6) replaces the use of mineral fertilizers and closes the loop for net energy production (by biogas), while providing technical data to extend nutrient & energy balance at larger territorial scale.
NoAW will help solve persistent plastics pollution through biodegradable PHAs from innovative processes (microbial mixed cultures, photofermentation) and improved functionalities (composites with lignocellulosic fillers and active materials with antioxidants, both from winery waste).
Combining LCA, TM, & MCE methods provides multiangle results on environmental sustainability of NoAW agro-waste upgrading strategies, with innovative inclusion of product, farm & region levels to reach a broader group of stakeholders. European and Asian KESPs enable an integrated use of biomass from different agro-wastes to attain high performance end-products & shared knowledge on agro-waste market, supply chains, valorisation & marketing. NoAW revealed that many agro-waste initiatives are vulnerable to market situation and cooperation. Recommendations on how to stimulate eco-sustainable industrial ecology solutions are in the pipeline.
Main findings, compiled into upcoming best practice guide, training & education materials, will further enhance their impact among potential users and students, beyond the project duration.
Fig. 07 - Pilot plant dedicated to H2 and CH4 production from winery waste (INRA, Narbonne, FR)
Fig. 03 - The Sino-European NoAW project’s consortium
Fig. 13 - NoAW stakeholder event Verona, Italy, 1 Oct. 2019
Fig. 12 - NoAW-AgroCycle joint stakeholder event in Beijing, China 22-23 Oct. 2018
Fig. 06 - Nitrogen load distribution on fields, assessed by online Near Infra-Red Technology
Fig. 05- Decision support used when choosing options between technologies
Fig. 10 - State of WP4 activities
Fig. 01- ID card of the project
Fig. 08 - Pilot plant for H2, CH4 and PHA prod. from manure-straw-grass-silage (INNOVEN, Verona, IT)
Fig. 11 - Cascading activities based on extraction of bio-active molecules from winery waste
Fig. 02 - Dvpt.of an agricultural residue refinery centred on anaerobic digestion (NoAW’s WP3 & WP4)
Fig. 04 - NoAW’s WPs structure
Fig. 09 - NoAW’s valorization lines of agricultural waste in WP4