On March 29th, Circular Agronomics and the BioRefine Cluster jointly organised the European Nutrient Sustainable Initiative (ESNI) conference. Over 120 participants attended the event which was moderated by Erik Meers, from Gent University, and Elisabet Nadeu, from the RISE Foundation and leader of Circular Agronomics’ Work Package 6. The was held online and more than 120 attendees among which researchers, private companies, public institutions and NGOs.
The event was organised around two sessions. The first session, organised by the BioRefine Cluster, focused on the practical implementation of innovative solutions for nutrient recycling and included presentations from several EC funded projects as well as the re-launch of the nutrient recycling community. The second session was the policy workshop organised by Circular Agronomics with the title “Achieving Farm to Fork´s 50% reduction in nutrient losses by 2030 – what role for farmers and consumers?“. It focused on the contribution that EC funded projects, including Circular Agronomics, can make towards achieving the goals for nutrients set within the framework of the Farm to Fork Strategy of the European Commission.
To provide the context for the session, Wim Debeuckelaere, a policy officer at DG Sante, European Commission, presented the situation for nutrient emissions in the EU, the Farm to Fork Strategy and introduced the legislative framework for sustainable food systems. The objectives of reducing the use of mineral fertilisers are important, he said, to reduce import dependency on fertilisers and energy as the Ukraine war and the energy crises have shown. Debeuckelaere also underlined that the policy framework to control nutrient emissions is not enough to reach current objectives and that reducing nutrient losses will require also a change in our diets, shifting towards a more plant-based diet with less red and processed meat which is also expected to bring health benefits.
Wim’s presentation was followed by a round of short presentations by four projects funded under the H2020 programme: Circular Agronomics, Nutri2Cycle, Fertimanure and Lex4Bio. Some highlights from the presentations are presented below:
Sinéad McCarthy, Research Officer at Teagasc, Ireland / Zein Kallas, Professor at the Polythecnical Uniersity of Catalonia and Scientific Director CREDA-UPC-IRTA (Spain)
Results from a consumer and a farmer survey were explained. The consumer survey analysed the factors influencing the purchase behaviour of organic food by consumers and also the behaviour leading to food waste. In both cases, gender, education and income were found not to be significant, while age was a significant factors for food waste. The farmer aimed to assess the factors and barriers affecting farmers´adoption of several innovative solutions of circular agronomy including low input farming, precision feeding, thermal/solar drying and fertigation with microfiltered slurry/digestate. The results show that farmers that adopt the solutions tend to have an ecocentric attitude rather than an anthropocentric attitude. And that institutions should encourage the implementation of new technologies in agriculture through subsidies and tax benefits.
Zein Kallas, Professor at the Polythecnical Uniersity of Catalonia and Scientific Director CREDA-UPC-IRTA (Spain)
The presentation focused consumer behaviour, perceptions and preferences towards circular farming. They analysed the expected willingness to pay for premiums and the perceptions of consumers regarding the value of agro-residues processing into renewable energy. The results showed that for it to be effective the price premium for “circular” farming should be within an interval of 0-40%, depending on the country and the produce category, with a 27% average.
Laia Llenas, Deputy Director of the BETA Technological Centre at the University of Vic – Central University of Catalonia (Spain) and coordinator of Fertimanure
Fertimanure presented the development and testing of nineteen different bio-based fertilisers derived from manure including ammonium sulphate solution, organic P rich fertilisers, and phosphoric acid, among others. She talked about the opportunities for each of these products and how they fall under the classification of products in Regulation 2019/1009. She ended the presentation talking about the role that products derived from processed manure could have in reaching the objectives for organic farming in the EU.
Kari Ylivanio, Senior Scientist at the Natural Resources Institute Finland (LUKE) and coordinator of Lex4Bio
The presentation focused on reducing nitrogen and phosphorus losses taking into account the farmer and consumer perspectives. Kari talked about the importance of developing knowledge about the agronomic efficiency and risks associated to bio-based fertilisers. He said that information for farmers is needed on nutrient content and availability of these fertilisers, the equipment needed to spread them (which may differ from existing fertiliser spreaders) as well as on their storage conditions, and highlighted the importance of these fertilisers for the development of organic agriculture.
The session was closed with a Q&A and a short closing by Elisabet Nadeu highlighting the importance of coordinating efforts throughout the whole food chain to achieve the Farm to Fork objectives.
Participating projects at the ESNI event: