Demonstration of circular biofertilisers and implementation of optimized fertiliser strategies and value chains in rural communities

01 January 2021 → 31 December 2024
European funding: framework programme
Research disciplines
  • Engineering and technology
    • Membrane technologies
    • Recycling
Electro dialysis Resource Recovery sacrificial layers
Other information
Project description

The RUSTICA project provides a technical solution to convert organic residues from the fruit and vegetable sector into novel bio-based fertiliser products of high quality that address the needs of modern (organic) agriculture. The project ’s ambition goes beyond the simple recovery of nutrients, and also includes the developments of economically viable and environmentally sustainable alternatives to mineral fertilisers with the same or improved agronomic value. The technical solution consists of 5 conversion processes (carboxylic acid platform, microbial biomass production, electrodialysis, insect breeding and biochar production) which can be combined depending on the available waste streams, and integrated with state-of-the-art technologies such as composting. Synergies between the individual conversion processes will be sought and optimized to maximize economic and environmental benefits, and the processes will be demonstrated at TRL7. The resulting ingredients (microbial biomass, mineral nutrient concentrates, insect biomass, insect frass, insect chitin, biochar) will be combined to obtain tailor made fertiliser products adapted to specific crop needs. Parallel with this technological innovation and integration, a multi-actor approach guarantees the implementation potential of the technologies in the agro-food chain, and will lead to sound business models. Several non-technical aspects (environmental and social LCA, legal framework, expected market developments...) will be evaluated in 4 European regions and 1 region in Colombia. Stakeholder involvement at each step guarantees the development of marketable end-products for the fruit and vegetable sector, with a high replication potential to other agricultural sectors. Cooperation with other EUfunded projects working on nutrient recovery from other waste products will stimulate a joint solution to evolve towards a sustainable and circular fertiliser management to close nutrient cycles within and between regions

Role of Ghent University
The Particle and Interfacial Technology Research Group (PaInT) at UGent, led by Professor Emile Cornelissen, will develop a novel electrodialysis-based procedure to separate nutrients, specifically, NH4+, P2O5, and K+ (NPK), from different carboxylic acids; both products of the carboxyl acid platform to degrade gruit and vegetables by-products and residues. Also, novel strategies for preventing and mitigating the fouling of ionic exchange membranes, a key drawback that membrane-based processes face, will also be developed and implemented during the pilot demonstration, where fouling resistant membranes will be tested.