Advanced Water Management Centre

UQ researchers turning waste into fertiliser

Friday, 30 August 2013

Processing industrial waste into fertiliser is now a reality thanks to University of Queensland (UQ) research, which is set to have a significant impact on both the environment and agricultural industry.

Price fluctuation and the availability of resources are impacting upon Australia’s agriculture and livestock industry, which sources 50% of their fertiliser phosphates from overseas.

The University’s research team is confident that a new, renewable process to turn agro-industrial and domestic wastes into fertiliser, will not only lower the financial costs, but also improve the environmental cost surrounding the management of waste systems.

Lead researcher, Dr Damien Batstone from UQ’s Advanced Water Management Centre (AWMC), said the grain industry in particular will benefit from the generation of renewable fertiliser sources which are optimised for that sector.

“This is expected to provide competition pressure on mineral resources to enable pricing stabilisation of phosphorous with a target of $5-$10/kgP, as well as enhancing the long-term sustainability of the sector,” Dr Batstone said. 

“Particularly in Australia, this will buffer farmers against mineral resource linked fluctuations.”

“We also anticipate the grains industry will benefit from increased competitiveness and sustainability of the intensive agro-industrial sector, which will see improved waste management technologies and a new revenue stream related to renewable energy and fertiliser.”

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 Australian Government’s Grain Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) have provided $1.4 million in financial support, including 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.

The technology being developed has strong application to relevant industries, and GRDC’s core funding is now being matched strongly by funding from Meat and Livestock Australia and Australian Meat Processors Corporation, the CRC for Water Sensitive Cities, and Water Environment Research Foundation (USA) to apply the jointly developed UQ and GRDC technologies in industrial and domestic wastewater treatment.

This will reduce financial and environmental costs of wastewater treatment while promoting sustainability.

Media: Dr Damien Batstone (+61 7 334 69051), Dr Chirag Mehta (+ 61 7 3346 7208)

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