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Institute of Technology Carlow in collaboration with Irish partners launch Irish arm of major European project in soil nutrient sustainability

07/06/2018

Institute of Technology Carlow is to join forces with University of Limerick and Cork Institute of Technology and launch the Irish arm of  a major European project in soil nutrient sustainability, launching this month, that will seek to replace conventional mineral fertilisers with recycling-derived equivalents.

ReNu2Farm is a major European collaboration comprising 10 partners from higher education organisations, research institutes and industry that will work to address the global threat posed to industrial agriculture by the vast depletion of essential macronutrients nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium (N, P, K), without which plants cannot survive. The future of agriculture – and food supplies – necessitates nutrient recycling or composting on a global scale.

The three Irish partners, Institute of Technology Carlow, University of Limerick and Cork Institute of Technology, will collaborate with ReNu2Farm peers in the Netherlands (Nutrient Management Institute), Belgium (Ghent University, Inagro), Luxembourg (Soil Concept S.A.), France (Arvalis) and Germany (IZES gGmbH, Outotec GmbH & Co. KG) to address the issue.

The three-year project is part-funded under the Interreg North-West Europe Programme and the Irish launch, at Institute of Technology Carlow on 22nd June, will be attended by stakeholders from the farming, agricultural and waste management sectors, with the support of the Interreg North-West Europe Programme.

ReNu2Farm will also work closely with associated partners Teagasc, the Southern Waste Region Management Office, the IFA and the larger farming community as part of the project and seek, ultimately, to increase the recycling rates of NPK on farms in North-West Europe.

Currently, agricultural regions in the North-West of Europe are facing the challenge of soil nutrient sustainability for successful and environmentally friendly food security and farming. Some of the nutrients which farmers add to their fields via conventional chemical fertilisers are indeed N, P, and K. While nitrogen can be synthesised, it requires an enormous amount of fossil energy. Phosphorus and potassium cannot be made and are found in significant amounts only in a few large deposits scattered across the planet which are now depleting.

A potential solution to the problem is to utilise NPK from waste materials but, despite the development of recovery technologies, the use of recycling-derived fertiliser products to date has been minimal.

The ReNu2Farm project will map regions in North-West Europe with both nutrient shortage and surplus with the aim of exchanging recycled nutrients across the regions and foster producer-consumer collaborations.  Farmers’ needs will be surveyed during the project and the results used to tailor and develop recycling-derived fertilisers between nutrient surplus and demand regions. The undertaking will help in establishing transnational markets, informing national and EU policy and market barrier reduction. The overall expected outcome by the end of the project will be the replacement of conventional mineral fertilisers by recycling-derived fertilisers.

ReNu2Farm Project Manager Dr Thomaé Kakouli-Duarte, and Director of the enviroCORE research hub at Institute of Technology Carlow commented, “Nutrient recycling within the circular bio-economy is fundamental for agricultural sustainability, which translates to food security. This is an exciting project with expected outcomes that will benefit the farming community, the economy, the environment and presents the opportunity to find a solution with a real win-win situation”.