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FTI Cocoon Report Summary

Project ID: 700615

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - FTI Cocoon (Optimization of the production line of an innovative biodegradable water reservoir to be applied in efficient landscape-scale ecosystem restoration plans)

Reporting period: 2016-02-01 to 2016-11-30

Summary of the context and overall objectives of the project

Global land resources are under pressure in the face of growing demand from an exponentially growing population and the impacts of climate change. The numbers demonstrate that we are wasting our natural capital at an accelerating pace. The time to act is now, by initiating large scale land restoration programs involving tree plantings. The ecosystem restoration market is globally estimated at US $300 billion.
Towards this goal we have developed a unique, fully functional product (TRL 7), called ‘Cocoon’, to promote tree establishment in dryland environments. Acting as a tree incubator the Cocoon nourishes tree seedlings, resulting in high survival rates and increased resilience to adverse growing conditions, while maintaining water efficiency. The scope of this FTI is to prototype an innovative manufacturing line in the EU with the following objectives:
1. Reach a production capacity of 1 million Cocoons per year
2. Maximize production output of units per hour
These objectives are interrelated and will both be achieved by the end of the project. The first three Work Packages carried out extensive research on production optimization possibilities and the pilot line will be operational by March-April 2017. All designed process steps show a capacity of yearly output that will go over 1 million units.
3. Reduce the manufacturing costs drastically per Cocoon
This objective is reachable, and partners expect to have lowered costs down to the goal. The main constraint to reach this goal is volume. To reach the target cost volumes of 500.000+ unit orders will be necessary.
4. Reduce energy consumption & manufacture with 100% renewable energy
Although integrating the Cocoon production with a processing plant in Spain was not possible at this testing stage, and therefore cannot yet make use of recycled energy from waste heat, solar and PV, the process improvements partners are able to realize will significantly reduce the energy consumption within the process at FGW’s new pilot line. The current simulation model shows a 40-50% reduction in energy consumption.
Additional cost savings above the target values will be achievable once the pilot line is integrated with a processing plant later on after going into series production.
5. Integrate local agriculture waste materials or grasses in the product
Project partners have worked closely to evaluate the use of readily available agro waste as raw materials for the Cocoon. Although the cost of raw materials are not the most significant portion of the cost price for production, the modular dimension of the pilot line could be benefitted from a more circular economy approach to using locally sourced raw materials.
When production cost can go down, completely new, large-scale markets will open up. Our project will stimulate private sector investment in land regeneration projects and promote trans-disciplinary research & innovation (industrial design, organic waste recycling, biomass, renewable energy). Our sustainable innovations address societal needs of restoring degraded areas, especially in times of increasing pressures from climate change. They also create a viable business opportunity for the private tree planting sector (forestry companies, fruit & nut producers, etc.). FTI Cocoon is highly business-driven and clearly demonstrates a realistic potential for quick deployment and market take-up.

Work performed from the beginning of the project to the end of the period covered by the report and main results achieved so far

The work carried out from the beginning of the project until now (10 months) has included a thorough analysis of the current cost requirements for Cocoon production, an overview of the potential benefits of different innovation strategies to lower cost price per unit and the eventual decision on a process optimization to create a cost-effective, fully-operational, large-volume pilot line. This pilot line will be tested at Fasergusswerk Polenz’s (project coordinator) facilities and will be modified to become a modular, plug-and-play production method to be deployed in strategic locations to open up new markets for the Cocoon. The pilot line will be able to produce 1 million Cocoons per year; that is more than three times the current amount, at possibly a cost price that is 5 times lower than the current price. This modular production line could be installed in other industrial sites, making use of excess heat and other valuable energy-efficient options. Additional studies on improvements for the Cocoon’s functionality as well as other sources of raw material based on a circular economy approach have been studied and are currently tested by the project partners.

Progress beyond the state of the art and expected potential impact (including the socio-economic impact and the wider societal implications of the project so far)

The innovative Cocoon is a state-of-the-art planting technology that enables trees and plants to establish in arid conditions, revitalizing ecosystems and communities. It is low-cost (10 times cheaper than traditional tree planting), 100% biodegradable (Cocoon dissolves into organic substrate for the plant) and Low maintenance (after planting, no follow up irrigation or maintenance is needed). The Cocoon incorporates other beneficial elements such as mycorrhizal fungi to improve the plant’s root system, a sturdy tree shelter to help protect the sapling and a paper-based pulp made from organically-certified organic compounds and residual plant-based material. Additional research during this project has provided improvements to the structure of the reservoir and lid, as well as more efficient waxing and pressing processes.
The societal and socio-economic impact of this project is immense. Until the reporting period, Land Life Company has planted trees with the Cocoon in more than 20 countries with survival rates of 80-95%. The various applications of the Cocoon include nature restoration, landscaping, highway planting and productive trees- during the FTI Pilot project, around 10-20 Ha will be used as demonstration sites for approximately 4,000-8,000 Cocoons.
In terms of the impact in the production, the final objective of 1 million Cocoons per modular pilot line means reforesting 2,000 ha, opening Land Life Company up to new markets in many countries and lowering cost-price in order to reach a wider audience and volume capacity. Its impact on the environment and social wellbeing will be extremely valuable since:
• Sustainable nature restoration and urban landscaping with the Cocoon creates value for nature and people.
• Using the Cocoon, degraded land can be turned into valuable land with more potential. Degraded land can typically be acquired at a low cost, while the value of surrounding fertile, vegetated lands is 5-10 times higher.
• As the production and usage of resources is interlinked (food, water, energy, soils, CO2), integrated solutions must be developed and deployed. Restoring nature by planting trees on degraded land is the most water efficient way of addressing this challenge and has a positive impact on the long-term availability of resources.
•Trees are the earth's natural way to capture CO2. A full-grown forest may absorb between 1 and 10 t/ha of CO2. A healthy mycorrhizae system may increase the CO2 uptake by a factor of 2 to 3.
•Planting native trees is a starter for ecosystem revitalization. As trees grow, they have multiple positive effects on the ecosystem: water retention capacity, barriers to erosion, shade and humus for vegetation to grow, improved soil quality and soil life.

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