Circular Cultivation and Chemistry (Research)
The agricultural and petrochemical sector are facing the challenge to use our natural resources in a more sustainable way. For example, only the consumable parts of a crop are used for commercial purposes, leading to the disposal of a large number of residual by-products. On the other hand, in the petrochemical industry, the production of fossil-based materials puts enormous pressure on our environment. These challenges are addressed by a collaborative project between Hasselt University, Maastricht University, pcfruit, Compas Agro and Centexbel. This project aims to investigate the potential of using plant biomass from residual streams as a renewable source of materials. Instead of focusing on commonly used bulk materials from plants such as (hemi-)cellulose or lignin, we will use plant polyphenols, which are small aromatic biomolecules, as building blocks. We will achieve our goal by optimizing sustainable cultivation techniques focusing on local crops grown in Flanders and the Netherlands such as grape, nettle, blueberry and asparagus. The focus will lie on increasing yield and/or food quality while at the same time stimulating the production of these secondary biomolecules. Innovative biorefinery technologies will be employed to extract the desired biomolecules from non-consumable crop residues, which will be subsequently converted to polymer materials. The remaining residues after bio-extraction will be transformed into biochar which can be used as a soil amendment, thereby closing the nutrient cycles. This project will provide knowledge that ultimately contributes to the transition to a circular bio-based economy with new revenue streams for the agricultural sector.
Period of project
01 February 2023 - 31 January 2026