PhosFarm addresses the needs of an increasing market for economically and environmentally sustainable phosphorus (P) recovery from agricultural residues to meet the growing demand for food, bio-fuels and bio-materials. Recent studies demonstrated that the EU is highly vulnerable to the foreseeable P scarcity because of its complete dependency on imported non-renewable phosphate rock for the production of fertilizer. However, besides rock reserves, additional P resources include agricultural residues such as animal manure and anaerobic digestate, both of which contain high P amounts. Technologies for the P recovery from these residues would decrease dependency on imports and reduce the burden on non-renewable reserves. Although new technologies have already been developed for the recovery of inorganic phosphate salts from liquid waste streams, P is also present as organic compounds, which cannot be recovered as P salts by current technologies.
PhosFarm is a partnership of European SMEs that recognized the business opportunity of recovering P from agricultural residues by a novel process that recovers both organic and inorganic P. They have identified scientific information about the feasibility to convert organic P to phosphate by an enzymatic mineralization method and aspire to come up with an industrial process. The key innovation will be the advanced P recovery through a controlled enzymatic mineralisation of more than 90% of the organic P. This will result in an increased phosphate concentration in the liquid fraction of the residues, which is available for phosphorus-salt precipitation. The solid fraction will be dried and compounded with the precipitated salts on customer's demand, achieving an optimal nutrient ratio (N:P:K) for the specific crop needs. The result of the project will be a semi-mobile on-site or a mobile trailer-mounted unit that can be operated stand-alone or easily integrated into already existing manure facilities or anaerobic digesters.
PhosFarm business model
The consortium, regional and European franchise partners will operate a service business that treats agricultural residues with a semi-mobile on-site or a mobile trailer-mounted unit. Organic and inorganic phosphorus are recovered as phosphate salts and organic soil improver with optimal nutrient ratio is produced. Both products are commercialised in the agricultural market for on-demand use on fields and are based on to customer-quality specifications. To realise this business economically, the organically bound phosphorus has to be made available for precipitation. Research performed at Fraunhofer with model compounds has shown that enzymes can mineralise organic phosphorus to convert them into inorganic phosphorus (phosphate). Based on this scientific information and the apparent market opportunity, the consortium has united to overcome barriers of technology and knowledge through innovations in the PhosFarm project.