European Union Seventh Framework Programme (EU FP7) - Biowaste 4SP Project


Potential New Feedstock of Nutrient-rich and Sugar-rich Biowaste in Africa for Future Bio-based Products

by Mathias Gustavsson, IVL Swedish Environmental Research Institute

The Biowaste4SP project is all about finding ways to turn biowaste and bioresidues with low economic or other value to value-added products. Depending on the feedstock different value-added products can be considered. For the nutrient rich feedstock high quality organic fertilizer and soil conditioner is one option. Anaerobic fermentation process linked with composting is a suitable technology, and will apart from the fertilizer also result in biogas production. For sugar rich feedstocks there are a range of other options in terms of end products e.g. bioethanol, lactic acid, protein and amino acids. The Biowaste4SP project will test and apply first generation (starch) conversion technologies, thus excluding cellulosic feedstocks for the sugar platform but using these as feedstocks for biogas and biofertilizer. The project is to provide “proof of concept” of white biotechnology applications in Africa.


One of the first tasks of the project was to start identifying biowaste feedstock available in the five African partner countries; Egypt, Kenya, South Africa, Ghana and Morocco. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) have provided a number of studies that report on the losses in agricultural production in Africa. Post-harvest losses are a major problem and FAO reports that 10-20% of the physical grains can be lost prior to processing. In addition to this there are biowaste generated as a result of both the farming activity as well as in processing stages. In the Biowaste4SP project the focus is set on feedstocks that are nutrient and/or sugar rich. Manure, cassava peels, green bananas, rice straw and husk are examples of biowastes. There are other biomass resources, such as rice bran, that is already a commodity traded and taken care of that could potentially be turned into even more value-added products than is the case today.


At present each partner country are sampling and characterizing potential feedstocks that have been identified in the country. The samples will be taken from processing industries as well as plantations. The samples will then be characterized in terms of among other things carbohydrates, dry matter, ash content and inorganic elements. The results from this will be presented in a catalogue of potential feedstocks and their characteristics in the different partner countries. The catalogue will include both sugar rich and nutrient rich feedstocks as we have seen that some of these are actually found in both categories. The catalogue will be a public document and deliverable from the project and is due in end of September 2014.


Within the project protocols and templates have been developed to ensure that the procedures and documentation is done in a similar way in all the five partner countries and that the samples and results are comparable and of a high quality.


One of the challenges is that quite a lot of the biomass considered does have alternative uses. For example, green bananas in Ghana not fit for the export market, are used for compost and recycled on the banana plantation. Another example is rice husk that would have a direct economic value if there were industries using it for energy purposes but if no such technology is found then it is a waste. It is thus hard to identify feedstocks that are not used hence discussing present use and changes of management are integrated parts in the assessment. To ensure this is highlighted the sustainability aspects of the selected feedstock and processes will be studied in a special work package in the Biowaste4SP project.


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