What is the technology behind the RUSTICA project?

Inge De Bo and Jef Van de Poel are responsible for the project technical management of RUSTICA.

Inge holds a Ph.D in Applied Biological Sciences and does research related to the biological optimization of the carboxylic acid platform (CAP). Jef is involved in the CAP research with a focus on downstream processing, holding a Master in Bioscience Engineering with a specialization in Chemistry and Bioprocess technology.

For the past 30 years, our company OWS has developed several innovative and patented designs for biogas plants, with a pre-treatment, digester concept and post-treatment adapted to each type of feedstock. As we are historically a biogas building plant company we extract a lot of stuff out of biowaste but in the end, we have a waste stream or residuals that has no value for chemical extraction.

With the carboxylic acid production platform research, we want to anticipate in a trend that we are producing some chemicals ourselves prior to anaerobic digestion (AD). And that is where RUSTICA is about: we are releasing nutrients and producing carboxylic acids from the easily biodegradable agri-waste streams. The remaining materials after CAP will be treated in AD, and so biogas and compost can still be produced.

In the first stage of the RUSTICA project, we are screening up to 20 different fruit and vegetable waste streams from the 5 RUSTICA test regions (4 European regions and Columbia), in order to quantify their potential for NPK release and production of carboxylic acids. In these lab tests, the liquid fraction is separated from the solid fraction. The liquid phase will be further converted to microbial biomass (by partner Avecom) and nutrient concentrate (by partner UGent), as ingredients for the bio-based fertiliser blends.

In the next stage of the RUSTICA project, we will run a pilot plant on TRL7 by integrating 3 technologies for the treatment of 50 tonnes of agri-waste from Pays de la Loire. The goal is to demonstrate the value chain on a pilot scale and to produce large amounts of fertilizer ingredients for field tests.

We recently visited the partners of the Chambre d’Agriculture de Pays de la Loire in Angers. We were excited to have a sightseeing walk in Paris while transferring from one high-speed railway station to another.

We hope to escape the lab very soon and really make a process that has a market.  We started the CAP research, not to have some fun in the lab, but really have a future-proof technology alongside our AD technology that we can use for the treatment of organic waste. And the RUSTICA challenges help us to work on this realisation 🙂



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