GRASS2ALGAE – Recycling nutrient from grass clippings for the production of circular proteins

In 2020, the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (Flanders) launched a call for the submission of project proposals from operational groups within the framework of the Rural Development Programming Document. In total, twenty-four operational groups in different sectors were selected, including our very own Grass2Algae in the Circular Economy topic.

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The Grass2Algae operational group (OG) aims at evaluating the use of grass juice for growing microalgae as an additional revenue for farmers. Farmers have access to excess grass either from the edges of their fields or from mowing low quality grass that cannot be used for cattle feeding. Therefore, they wish to find valuable uses for this biomass, which is currently treated as waste.

Grass juice accounts for 40-60% of the total grass weight and research results have shown that it can be used for microalgal cultivation. Therefore, the farmers themselves could grow microalgae to be used as animal feed or provide the grass juice to algae growers who want to produce bio-certified algae, as grass juice could be considered an organic growing medium.

The OG will evaluate the economic viability of the proposed value-chain based on the amount of grass available from 3 partner farms, the grass processing data gathered by the Grassification project (Interreg 2 Seas – Ghent University as Lead Partner), and the microalgal cultivation data gathered during the OG from 2 partners (Thomas More and AnKo Projects). It is also assessed, on the basis of figures from the above-mentioned Grassification project, how various options for applying the fiber fraction, such as composting or selling to specialized companies such as Gramitherm, can improve the economic feasibility of the process. The OG will thus stimulate innovation by giving farmers the opportunity to earn an income from the leftovers of their business and ensure a circular economy on their farms.

The project is running from January 1st to December 31st, 2021, and counts with 3 partner farmers - Kris Heirbaut, Koen Apers, Leo De Grave – working together with Ghent University, RADIUS at Thomas More, AnKo Projects and United experts. We are now in the initial stages of our activities, but soon we will have exciting results to share!