SPES – Valorisation of by-products and waste – Biomass chemistry in the agrifood sector

The SPES value chain deals with the enhancement of biomasses from the agri-food sector, from forest and marine resources, from energy and integration crops, in order to obtain components with high added value for agriculture, the food industry, animal feed, chemicals, pharmaceutical and personal care, with a view to developing the concept of bio-refinery.

Strategic Objective 1 – Direct and indirect enhancement of waste, by-products and co-products of agriculture, livestock and aquaculture towards the food and feed chains

Scraps and by-products in the agriculture, livestock and aquaculture sector can be reused as new feed or food ingredients, possibly after bio-refining, either by the manufacturing company itself for the creation of a new product or ingredient, or in a different company, as secondary raw materials, and finally as a substrate for the growth of organisms that generate a homogeneous biomass. The amount of waste in the region can thus be decreased, and at the same time new products can be obtained with innovative technologies, developing the connection between supply chains and circular economy models, factors for improving the regional economy and environmental quality. The risks and social acceptability of this new approach must be carefully studied. It is also necessary to implement new technologies for the processing and reuse of these waste. Logistics and the creation of information databases are essential points for the implementation of this strategy. It is also necessary to train new professional figures suited to the new technological challenges.

Strategic Objective 2 – Enhancement of agricultural, livestock and aquaculture by-products and co-products through the development of bio-refineries or innovative extraction processes for the production of chemical compounds and materials of interest to non-food and non-feed industrial sectors

The biorefinery processes are dedicated to the transformation of biomass for the production of compounds, materials and energy and are currently largely fed with organic fractions from dedicated crops. However, their full economic sustainability still poses a challenge. The use of waste matrices as a raw material can help limit the costs of bio-refineries: this strategy can represent an opportunity for the Emilia-Romagna Region, rich in organic residues deriving from strategic sectors such as agriculture, livestock and aquaculture. At the same time, of great help could be the development of innovative bio-refineries that are “flexible” (fed with different substrates according to seasonal availability), “cascade” (with several successive steps to maximize the exploitation of raw material) and “integrated“ (for obtaining a greater number of products that could refer to diversified markets). The purposes of related industrial research and development activities should include biomass stabilization, optimization of extraction processes and biomass (bio)-conversion, and downstream strategies.

Strategic Objective 3 – Valorisation of by-products and waste from the agriculture, livestock and aquaculture sector into energy products and bio-methane

Waste and by-products in the agriculture, livestock and aquaculture sector can be reused for the production of biofuels, in particular, in light of the new Decree 02.03.2018, related to bio-methane. The optimization of the bio-methane supply chain passes through the introduction of pre-treatment and storage techniques, capable of promoting the efficient and convenient conversion of waste and by-products. In the same way, there are still margins of efficiency in the anaerobic digestion process itself. It is necessary to develop the logistics for the collection and distribution of waste and by-products and it is necessary to encourage their separation at the source, along the food processing chain. Beyond the environmental effects due to the production of renewable energy (biofuels), the proposed objective allows to create specialized skills in sectors with high potential for economic growth, while at the same time guaranteeing new employment and internationalization opportunities for regional companies. It is also necessary to train new professional figures oriented on the principles of the circular economy.

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The Clust-ERs are financed by the European Funds of the Emilia-Romagna Region - ERDF ROP 2014-2020