The use of renewable energies is vital to face critical global challenges such as climate change and global warming, in the framework of energy scarcity and rising prices of fossil fuels. One renewable energy is biogas, a gas that comes from the biodegradation of a wide range of organic waste including wastewater sludge (the organic fraction of municipal waste or manure), among others. The production of biogas through anaerobic digestion (that is, the decomposition of biodegradable material in the absence of oxygen) has been increasing exponentially in Europe in recent years. This is because it can be produced locally and has a clear positive effect on waste recycling, the generation of clean energy, sustainable development or climate action.
In this context, the FertiLab project was launched (Cycles towards local sustainability in agriculture: production of nutrient enriched biofertilizers and organic amendments with biopesticide and biostimulant properties), with the participation of researchers from the Department of Agri Food Engineering and Biotechnology (DEAB) of the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya - BarcelonaTech (UPC). The main objective of the project is to give a second life to digested sludge from water treatment and other sources to produce added value products of critical interest in sustainable agriculture. These include:
The aim of the project is to increase the sustainability of agriculture in the territory, based on the principles of agroecology. The aim is to change the current situation of intensive agriculture for more local strategies, close nutrient cycles and use organic soil conditioners instead of chemical products that have a high environmental impact, such as mineral fertilisers and chemical pesticides.
The project includes the assessment of the potential use and application of the bioproduct that is obtained, and so promotes the marketing and acceptance in the market of new agricultural ingredients with a biological base. The concept of “Living Lab” will be applied to address sustainable fertilisation with the participation of a range of agents, who will act as catalysts to implement an open platform in which new agricultural proposals can be approached from a technical, environmental and economic perspective.
Other agriculture-related benefits that can be attributed to FertiLab are an increase in biodiversity, a reduction in the impact of forest fires, a reduction in greenhouse gases, soil carbon sequestration and a reduction in energy consumption.
FertiLab will last three years (December 2022 - November 2025) and is financed with the European Union’s Next Generation funds, within the Spanish Government’s Recovery, Transformation and Resilience Plan (Ministry of Science and Innovation). The consortium is comprised of three universities, two research centres and one industrial partner: the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya - BarcelonaTech (UPC), the Autonomous University of Barcelona (UAB), the Miguel Hernández University (UMH) of Elche, the Institute of Agrifood Research and Technology (IRTA), the Basque Centre for Climate Change (BC3) - Klima Aldaketa Ikergai and Fomento Agrícola Castellonense, S.A. (FACSA). The total budget for the project is €1,045,598.78.