Circular fertilizer and net zero: examining the potential of digestate for indoor farms

August 9, 2023 | AFN Network+ |

A collaborative project is addressing the challenge of greenhouse gas emissions from synthetic fertilizers in agriculture. At an AFN Network+ Crucible event, experts including Nicholas Pitts from the Scotch Whisky Research Institute, India Langley, Lilly Manzoni from LettUs Grow, and Dr. Alexandros Stratakos of UWE Bristol came together to explore the potential of digestate for indoor farming.

LettUs Grow, specializing in aeroponic technology and farm management software for indoor farming, faces year-round fertilizer requirements with a heavy reliance on emissions-producing synthetic fertilizers. The surplus of digestate from anaerobic digesters, rich in essential plant nutrients like nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, offers a climate-friendly alternative. However, digestate's use in indoor farming remains largely unexplored.

The project aims to assess plant-based and animal-based digestates' effectiveness on indoor basil farming systems, evaluating their nutrient content, pathogen risks, and their performance compared to synthetic fertilizers. A Scotch Whisky distillery anaerobic digestion plant will provide plant-based digestate. The project will also identify locations where indoor farms and anaerobic digestion plants can be beneficially combined.

The collaboration seeks to promote synergy between energy, fertilizers, and food production, connecting containerized farms with anaerobic digesters for resource efficiency. The project, led by Dr. Alexandros Stratakos, aspires to provide tangible, data-driven solutions that can be adopted by the agriculture and anaerobic digestion industries, advancing sustainability and circular economies.