Turning research into innovation and sidestreams into income
AGRIFORVALOR was a project funded under the Horizon 2020 programme that provides valuable sidestream support for Europe’s Bioeconomy. Around the world, industries of all kind produce waste. However, for industries involved in the use of natural resources, it is perhaps better to think of these products not as waste but rather as opportunity. The ‘waste’ from many agricultural and forestry industry activities have the potential for a second life as a valuable ‘sidestream’ of the initial industry. These products can not only have real value, but also add to a growing bio-economy that is both profitable and sustainable.
AGRIFORVALOR brought together members from all sectors adjacent to the bio-economy, helping identify where value can be found in sidestream (e.g. waste, by-products and residues) from agriculture and forestry and getting those feedstocks to innovators who transform them from ‘waste’ into valued commodities.
The objective of AGRIFORVALOR was to close the research and innovation divide. AGRIFORVALOR connected a range of stakeholders (e.g. partners from agriculture and forestry with research, (bio-) industry, policy makers, business support organisations, innovation agencies and technology transfer intermediaries) in order to achieve new value chains and to stimulate biomass sidestream market uptakes into value-added products.
AGRIFORVALOR ran from 2016 to 2018. The project involved 16 partners from industry and academia across Europe, co-ordinated by Steinbeis 2i GmbH, a company with strong project co-ordination experience and credentials. Initially three areas – Andalucia (Spain), Ireland and Hungary – were identified as potential project hubs. The hub areas were chosen due to their high potential for production of sidestream by-products and a willingness to build a regional bio-economy. The hubs were then designed, organised and staffed to bring together people from the fields of biomass sidestreams with people representing both regional and national levels of business, research and academia, as well as forest and agricultural sectors.
In practice, the hubs have offered a wide variety of services, such as workshops on exploitation of research results and on developing new business models for the forestry and agricultural sector sbased on biomass sidestreams. The Irish hub involved partners including the Institute of Technology Tralee, IBEC, the IFA and Teagasc.
There are many examples of promising ways in which common European sidestream biomass can be valorised. While there are many examples linked to energy, AGRIFORVALOR focused more on higher value outputs such as materials, food, feed and pharmaceuticals following a cascading methodology. One such example was to create bio-plastic out of lignin which is found in wood.
Bringing together such as diverse group of individuals naturally had its challenges, but it also led to novel results. AGRIFORVALOR carried out regional business case studies in each of the hub areas. The project gained insights on business opportunities specific to each site. For example, in Andalucia, due to the large volume of olive mill waste and their environmental challenges and chemical compounds, these sidestreams can be converted into higher value products like food, cosmetics, pharmaceutical and biomaterials. In Hungary, the project found that, due to the large volumes of straw and whey, there are high-potential valorisation opportunities in their conversion into bio-oil for heat and energy (fuel) production through pyrolysis and also for producing biofertilisers. In Ireland, due to large volumes of grass, sawmill and animal slurries, technologies like anaerobic digestion can be applied to produce biogas and biofertiliser as soil conditioner. Another opportunity lies in small-scale grass bio-refineries producing biogas, fibres, feed, proteinaceous products and eventually lactic acids.
Other opportunities for all hubs included: applying existing techniques (e.g. anaerobic digestion, pyrolysis) providing multiple products e.g. energy and (chemical) building blocks for higher value applications; using cross-sector partnerships based on existing strong regional networks to overcome ‘financial risks and access to finance’ that can additionally contribute to biomass supply, technical issues, transport, processing, etc; and using regional/national and EU support (programmes) as a basis to boost bio-economy in the ‘forestry and agricultural sector’, to reduce ‘oil and gas dependency’ and promote ‘commercialisation opportunities’.
The project’s findings were fed into an interactive web tool that can be used to browse the techniques and good practices online: the AGRIFORVALOR Sidestream Value Tool. The tool allows filtering on country, subsector, process, technology readiness level (TRL), biomass sidestream or output (fuel, food, feed, fertiliser, fine chemical, functional material) and offers networking and marketing opportunities. Researchers or industry can log in and share their results and ideas with the bioeconomy community, creating an online hub of back and forth, individualised communication that streamlines the initial steps of getting sidestreams activated. The sidestream value tool represents the spirit of AGRIFORVALOR as a facilitator for sidestream valorisation, especially at a grassroots level.
Another result from the collaboration of researchers and industry professionals in innovation partnership networks was the submission of Operational Groups (OGs) under the EIP AGRI scheme. Three OGs have been successfully selected to receive further funding.
Access to project data
Register on http://www.agriforvalor.eu/ to get access to project data. Registration allows access to a wide range of project information and results, including the following:
- About AGRIFORVALOR
- Description of Biomass Innovation Design Hubs
- Partner Information
- Sidestreams and the Sidestream Value Tool
- Innovation Design and Innovative Ideas e.g. Biomass Trade Centre concept
- Project Downloads
- Promotion Material
- Project Outputs- from business case studies to RTD results
- Presentation and information material related to the bioeconomy
- Academy e.g. Business planning and BusinessModels, Finance and Marketing
- Sidestream of the month e.g. 03/2018/Bark
- Best practice
- Other linked networks and projects
AGRIFORVALOR has identified some of the main obstacles that can limit the exploitation of sidestream biomass resources. The main barriers reported in the three hub areas include:
- The lack of internal financing,
- Obstacles that originate in legislation and legal requirements
- Administrative and approval procedures
- Lack of appropriate external funding sources
- Uncertainty around economic viability of bio-based products
- Potential of biomass sidestreams for a sustainable biobased economy (PDF)
- 3 regional innovation and business case studies (PDF)