Flemish scientists produce fertiliser from waste flows

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Flemish scientists produce fertiliser from waste flows

Bio-engineers from the universities of Antwerp and Ghent have developed a new type of fertiliser based on bacteria derived from food industry waste flows.

In the Flemish food production industry quite a lot of fertilisers, like phosphor and nitrogen, are lost. Attempts have already been made to transform this waste into microalgae, which is apparently very useful as an alternative fertiliser. “Although the results were successful, it was 5 to 10 times as expensive as conventional fertiliser. We have now cultivated and mixed three types of safe microbes; primarily aerobic heterotrophic bacteria, purple bacteria and – to a more limited extent – microalgae”, explains researcher Siegfried Vlaeminck.

Pilot project

Professors at the University of Ghent set up a pilot project to test the mixture on several plant varieties, such as ryegrass, petunias, parsley and tomato plants. “We noticed that the microbial fertilisers works just as well as conventional organic fertiliser, and in some cases even better”, says Vlaeminck. “It may be more expensive, but because microalgae also protect crops against disease, we believe that this will be acceptable for the market.”

Scale-up

Now that the researchers have completed the pilot project, they are looking to scale up the experiment. A few hundred thousand tons will be needed to ensure a cost-efficient production and reliable supply, concludes Vlaeminck. Greenyard Foods has already professed an interest in participating in the experiment.

Source: HLN. Photo: Mario Bentvelsen.

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