Sustainable up-cycling of agro-, agrofood and fisheries residues in horticulture and agriculture as bioenergy, biochar and chitin-rich products | 2 Mers Seas Zeeën


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Sustainable up-cycling of agro-, agrofood and fisheries residues in horticulture and agriculture as bioenergy, biochar and chitin-rich products

Priority Axis

Resource Efficient Economy

Specific objective

Circular Economy

Lead partner

Institute for Agricultural and Fisheries Research

Start Date


End Date


Project budget

3 353 733

ERDF amount

1 852 621

ERDF rate



    Common challenge

    • Use of agricultural and fisheries waste streams (shared natural resources in the 2 seas area) as environmentally friendly and circular economy resources for sustainable growing media (peat, coir or stonewool replacement), and chemical fertilizer and pesticide replacement. Creating innovative business climate by novel cultivation methods and novel products that satisfy demanding environmental and health criteria set by customers, which include CO2 reduction for global warming reduction and lower nutrient losses, lower pesticide residues and no human pathogens on fruits and vegetables.
    • Stimulation of technological development and innovation, by demonstrating gasification as a novel bio-energy and biochar production technology
    • The project aims to boost innovation dynamism, in particular relative to maritime and horticultural activities, by adopting resource-efficiency solutions

    Main Achievements

    We aim at solving bottlenecks and adopt solutions for sustainable growing media and for upcycling waste streams in horticulture. Horti-BlueC proposes to substitute non-renewable feedstock materials such as peat or stone wool with locally-produced, renewable feedstock materials. The materials that are currently used in growing media are not sustainable. The production of mineral wool is energy-demanding, while peat extraction from pristine peatlands threatens these sensitive ecosystems and carbon sinks. The project is quite ambitious, as we aim at adoption of a new greenhouse concept with 30% reduction of fossil fuel, 30% reduction in chemical pesticide application, 30% peat and stone wool replacement, and replacement of 20% virgin CO2.

    Horti-BlueC has explored the potential for upcycling 5 local waste streams: CO2 emitted by greenhouse heating, shellfish waste streams (feedstock for chitin), spent growing media (feedstock for biochar), green waste (feedstock for biochar) and plant fibers to contribute to sustainable soilless horticulture. Shellfish waste (e.g., shrimp shells) provide chitin, which can be used as an additive in growing media. Biochar (charred material) is rich in carbon, and has the potential to help mitigate climate change via C sequestration. Batches of biochar have been produced, based on plant fibers, spent growing media and the woody fraction of green waste. CO2 from flue gases was captured at a pilot installation, and can used for CO2 fertilization in greenhouses.

    The processing of residual materials into building blocks for growing media is supported by a decision tool, and innovative blends are now tested for the second year in greenhouse trials in three regions. Both chitin and biochar have the potential to increase the fertility of growing media, increase horticultural productivity, and increase the resistance of plants against specific foliar and soil-borne diseases. These trials were the subject of virtual and real-life visits. Several videos on the outputs related to the processing of the materials and the greenhouse trials are online.

    By optimizing waste pretreatment and processing techniques, the goal of the project is to prove the feasibility of 4 valorization chains for producing innovative materials for soilless cultivation. This will save resources (less fossil fuel use, less chemical crop protection and fertilizer application, among others) and will drastically reduce CO2 emissions from greenhouse horticulture.



    The Netherlands Organisation for applied scientific research (TNO)

    University of Lille



    Cato Engineering


    University of Portsmouth

    Research Centre Hoogstraten


    URL / Download

    Pilot on chitin/biochar as amendment for use in sustainable growing media to reduce the pesticide and nutrient use and increase the disease resistance

    Theme: Circular economy
    Type: Method/tool
    Target: SMEs /enterprises

    Economic feasibility study for valorisation chains, one integrated business model and cost model for 5 waste streams for adoption of technologies

    Theme: Circular economy
    Type: Feasibility study
    Target: Environmental agencies - Regional development agencies, Chamber of Commerce - SMEs /enterprises

    Decision tool on conservation, pretreatment, and processing options and sequence for one gaseous and four solid waste streams

    Theme: Circular economy
    Type: Method/tool
    Target: SMEs /enterprises

    Operational pilot gasifier (installation) at relevant scale for growers to demonstrate the combined production of biochar and bioenergy in greenhouses

    Theme: Circular economy
    Type: Physical equipment/pilot
    Target: Innovation agencies - SMEs /enterprises