Cooperation always leads to good results: focus on the first year of B-Ferst

Cooperation always leads to good results: focus on the first year of B-Ferst
PRESS RELEASE - 13 July 2020

The B-Ferst consortium met online to share the recent results of the research and technical activities and to plan the next steps towards the realisation of bio-based fertilisers and the improvement of the relationships in the agri-food sector

June 30th – One year has passed since B-Ferst kicked off in Madrid, in May 2019. As we all know, 2020 has probably been the most struggling year of the recent past. The emergency of the COVID-19 pandemic has triggered the beginning of very challenging times, and the crisis touched all of us and had impacts somehow on every activity. Nevertheless, B-Ferst didn’t shut down and, unlike most research activities, still managed to make signs of progress, which were discussed during the online project meeting held on June 30th.

Indeed, B-Ferst has been progressing towards a series of both research and technical topics such as the optimisation of the new bio-based fertilising products, the extraction and cleaning of nutrients from incinerated ashes, the regulatory compliance of new bio-based fertilisers, their position and availability on the market, their sustainability assessment and so.

In particular, in the last year, 22 new and valuable sources of raw materials have been found. Eleven of them can be directly incorporated into the fertiliser production process, that allows strengthening the demo plant supply. At the same time, the design of the nutrient recovery pilot plant has been completed. This plant will be fully commissioned and installed in the next few months at the Jerez de la Frontera WWTP. 

With regards to ashes, requirements and process conditions to be fulfilled by a demo plant were defined. The main result to highlight is that the total P2O5 percentage in the initial ashes samples should be higher than 15% to allow the production of a high-concentrated phosphate. Also, a phosphate extraction process from ashes has been completely designed, and the Basic Engineering Package was fully developed. 

As for the production of bio-based bio-stimulants with bio-polymer coatings for soil nutrients in agriculture, different partners are cooperating to reach this goal, keeping soil regeneration at the heart of the development and following a circular bio-economy approach. First, Novamont used and valorised by-products from oleaginous crops grown in marginal lands in different Italian Regions in collaboration with local farmers through innovative processes for obtaining new sustainable products. The Fertiberia team carried out evaluation tests on a laboratory scale with new biodegradable additives for their future addition to the fertilisers and developed their own extraction process to obtain a novel added-value biostimulant from bio-based residues. Partners from FKUR defined Product Requirements for Bio-Coating Material of plant biostimulant, evaluating different new approaches for the Bio Coating process and developing a preparation method for the disintegration testing. Finally, the research team of the University of Léon successfully executed the selection of micro-organisms to be used as plant bio-stimulants, defining the key pt for successful production of the inoculant. Also, they investigated the compatibility between the micro-organisms and the Bio-Coating materials selected by FKUR. 

Another key activity of B-Ferst is the finalisation of the assessment framework, including stakeholder requirements. Likewise, a dry-run demo of a field trial, using data from a similar test developed in Spain in 2017, has been carried out to demonstrate the capabilities of remote sensing to obtain parameters that allow monitoring and provide valuable information for the future trials.

An intense activity of B-Ferst is dedicated to the regulatory compliance of new bio-based fertilisers that are under development in B-Ferst and more particularly the conditions for making these new fertilisers available on the market of each Member State or on the EU internal market. The European unique situation in the agricultural field – due to the compliance with harmonized rules of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) – leads to the new to define the best regulatory approach for new products meaning to consider the EU voluntary scheme or not. Therefore, the development of a regulatory strategy has been initiated under B-Ferst as candidate product components have recently been identified. That strategy will drive the regulatory process during the coming months until the conclusion of the project.

Another key research of B-Ferst is the sustainability assessment. VITO, as leader of this activity, did a literature review to determine the methodology and define the goal and scope. The sustainability assessment aims to quantify the environmental, cost and social impacts of the newly developed fertilising products throughout their life cycle. The project will identify hotspots and opportunities for improvement and will compare the newly developed products to one conventional fertiliser. Together with the AG Futura team, a series of data collection questionnaires to be filled in by partners were designed. Finally, with some data already provided by partners, the team calculated very preliminary environmental profiles for product 1 (bio-based nutrients mineral fertiliser).

Last but not least, the project has been disseminated through the social networks, and an introductory video to the main scope and expected impacts of B-Ferst has been produced by the ICONS team, leader of the communication activities. The project was presented to both national and international events, and the active participation and dissemination will be higher as long as the project progresses.