Circular Agronomics was one of six EU Horizon 2020 projects that came together to organise the first European Sustainable Nutrient Initiative (ESNI).
Research and innovation are crucial for the promotion of nutrient recycling as an essential component of the circular economy. The ESNI conference showed how EU research is working to raise awareness of the benefits of Nutrient Recycling and Re-use (NRR). Closing nutrient cycles can contribute to a more efficient and sustainable food and feed production system and protect the environment. Under the umbrella of the Biorefine Cluster Europe, a network of projects working on bio–based recovery issues, six EU projects financed under Horizon 2020 and the INTERREG V B NWE research and innovation programmes joined forces to organise the conference.
Around 150 researchers, farmers, policy-makers, industry representatives and other stakeholders came together to discuss and share information on NRR at this first edition of the conference, held on 22 January 2019 in Brussels.
Prof. Erik Meers from Ghent University kicked off the plenary session as coordinator of the Biorefine Cluster Europe, presenting the current activities and the future steps of this research network. The European Commission’s José Ruiz (DG Agriculture), Pavel Misiga (DG Research) and Wim Debeuckelaere (DG Environment) provided a comprehensive overview of ongoing work at the policy level to promote NRR opportunities in Europe. The Commission representatives shared views on the current nutrient-related calls for proposals under the Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme and provided updates on the ongoing Horizon Europe negotiations.
The event also provided a timely opportunity for attendees to learn about other mechanisms for discussion and exchange on nutrient-recycling topics, and the role of Operational Groups (OGs) and focus groups operating under EIP-AGRI.
The six parallel workshops that followed the plenary session focused on the current policy measures, innovative solutions and technological developments related to nutrient recycling. The workshops were coordinated by the six projects involved in the organisation of ESNI: Circular Agronomics, Nutri2Cycle, NUTRIMAN, Phos4You, ReNu2Farm and SYSTEMIC. This interactive exchange of knowledge was complemented by a poster session and an open space for other projects involved in nutrient recycling to present their activities and engage with participants.
This successful ESNI conference was the first of what will be an annual event to support the expansion of nutrient recovery and re-use in Europe through exchange of lessons learnt and highlighting of policy opportunities.