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Turning Waste into Fertiliser

02 September 2013

AUSTRALIA - A new process for turning agro-industrial and domestic wastes into fertiliser, developed at The University of Queensland (UQ), is expected to have a significant, positive impact on the agricultural industry and the environment.

The research team is confident that a new, renewable process will lower the financial burden of purchasing fertilisers and improve the environmental cost of waste management systems.

Lead researcher, Dr Damien Batstone from UQ's Advanced Water Management Centre (AWMC), said the grain industry in particular would benefit from renewable fertiliser sources optimised for that sector.

“Price fluctuation and the availability of resources are impacting upon Australia's agriculture and livestock industries, which source 50 per cent of their fertiliser phosphates from overseas,” Dr Batstone said.

“This innovation is expected to add competition pressure on mineral resources so that phosphorous pricing stabilises at a target of A$5-A$10/kgP, for the long-term sustainability of the sector.

“This will buffer farmers against mineral resource-linked fluctuations, particularly in Australia.

“We also anticipate benefits for the grain industry to include increased competitiveness and sustainability in the intensive agro-industrial sector, improved waste management technologies, and a new revenue stream related to renewable energy and fertiliser.”

The Australian Government's Grain Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) provided A$1.4 million in financial support, including the funding of a GRDC research fellow, Dr Chirag Mehta, who is co-leading the project at UQ.

“Recycled nutrients from agro-industrial and domestic wastes are redefining their market by using a process that produces inorganic, granular fertiliser,” Dr Mehta said.

Three major fertiliser recovery processes are being piloted, involving a sewage treatment plant, meat processing, and concentrated animal waste streams with recovery of at least two kilograms of fertiliser product per day.

The jointly developed UQ and GRDC technologies have viable applications in associated industries, with GRDC's core funding leveraging support from Meat and Livestock Australia and Australian Meat Processors Corporation, the CRC for Water Sensitive Cities, and the Water Environment Research Foundation (USA).

TheCropSite News Desk

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