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





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 white peat or stone wool with locally-produced, renewable feedstock materials. The materials that are currently used in growing media are not sustainable. Peat and stone wool are not renewable and the production of stone wool is energy-demanding as well. Although peat has many advantages for use in growing media, its 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.

    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 pesticide and fertilizer application, among others) and will drastically reduce CO2 emissions from greenhouse horticulture.

    Horti-BlueC is currently exploring the potential for upcycling 5 local waste streams: CO2 emitted by greenhouse heating installations, 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 (flax shives and miscanthus straw), spent growing media and the woody fraction of green waste. 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.

    Tests on capturing CO2 from flue gases were performed at a pilot installation, this captured CO2 will be 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 in greenhouse trials in three regions.



    The Netherlands Organisation for applied scientific research (TNO)

    University of Lille



    Cato Engineering


    University of Portsmouth

    Research Centre Hoogstraten


    URL / Download

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

    Thema: 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

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