Bio-based fertilizers: a circular solution for sustainable food production?

Bio-based fertilizers: a circular solution for sustainable food production?

With advances in healthcare, infrastructure and other amenities of modern life, the planet’s population continues to grow. Today we are more than 7.7 billion people in the world and, according to the United Nations, we can reach 8.5 billion in 2030. With this growth, the demand for food also increases. 

It turns out that, with the extensive exploitation of non-renewable raw materials, food production is increased in two ways: increasing arable areas or fertilizer doses. In addition, global resources are depleting at a rapid pace, which also causes a rise in their prices. This is where the linear production model that currently predominates is confronted with limits. 

For a long time, the fertilizer industry was never interested in the valorization, nor in the reuse, of renewable resources for the development of fertilizers, since this sector was based on traditional technologies using fossil raw materials, which consume large amounts of energy and cause water contamination, nutrient loss and soil deterioration. It is estimated that up to 50% of nutrients in fertilizers volatilize into the atmosphere or are leached into groundwater. 

Therefore, rethinking the cycle within the context of the Circular Economy, with the production of fertilizers in a “closed circuit” is already a reality to be faced. Some of the raw materials need to be replaced by residual biomass, eg. agricultural waste or food waste. Closing this loop would prevent nutrients from fertilizers from being lost to the environment and turning into pollutants. The idea of circularity should include the use of by-products from one industrial sector as new raw materials in another sector. 

To make an efficient transition from a fossil-based economy to a bio-based economy, nutrient recovery from waste streams must be considered. Switching from mineral fertilizers to bio-based alternatives is an important direction for material and energy recovery. 

Among the renewable resources available today, food waste (especially agricultural waste and food processing waste) can be effectively converted into bio-based fertilizers. This would reduce the environmental impact of traditional fertilizers based on fossil raw materials, improve soil nutrition levels, decrease the need for synthetic chemicals and have great benefits in the food sector. 

It is a promising alternative both for valuing food waste and helping to close the loop in the fertilizer industry. This will reduce the environmental pressure of waste disposal, bring additional income to the food industry, directly benefit agricultural regions, and most importantly, reduce the use of synthetic fertilizers. 

Solving the challenges of food supply today involves a review of production processes as a whole. From the use of NPK fertilizers to the use of highly toxic pesticides. In this way, Regenera has been developing sustainable solutions, with a positive impact on the planet and on people’s health, through the intelligent and sustainable use of renewable resources available in our country.