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From farm waste to energy

A research team's efforts to transform organic waste from farms into biogas showed fruitful results. Developments in this area offer farmers a whole new eco-friendly way to exploit their land and open up new streams of revenue.
From farm waste to energy
There are many ways to produce renewable energy, and one of these is by exploiting agricultural waste materials to make biogas. The EU-funded project 'An integrated approach for biogas production with agricultural waste' (Agrobiogas) used farm-based anaerobic digestion (AD) plants to produce energy and benefit the environment at the same time. In addition, by treating organic waste in biogas plants and applying it to crops, nutrient losses in surface and ground water are minimised. Biogas production also creates another stream of revenue for farmers.

To achieve its goals, the project team worked on improving AD by mixing other organic residues. It transferred data and results from previous EU projects to farmers and trained stakeholders in exploiting the new technology. It also found ways of transforming AD sludge into bio-fertiliser.

Agrobiogas developed sophisticated tools to help farmers plan and invest in biogas plants, in addition to showing existing plant owners how to upgrade their facilities. One tool is a substrate database on biological chemical and physical characteristics of different areas. Another is an investment decision tool to evaluate a biogas project and calculate payback time. The third toolkit is a set of operational guidelines introducing and troubleshooting plant processes, and includes recommendations on using sludge as bio-fertiliser.

Project partners conducted training workshops and conferences around Europe to disseminate results and toolkits. They established the European AD helpdesk in eight countries to provide advice for investors on developing farm-based biogas plants. The helpdesk's website is available in seven languages and is a useful resource to further this novel kind of renewable energy and its application.

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