The 2023 ESNI conference calls for clear legislation to drive nutrient recycling forward and to realise more sustainable and resilient farming systems
After three successful editions, the Biorefine Cluster Europe organised their 4th European Sustainable Nutrient Initiative (ESNI) Conference on 20 September 2023 in Brussels. More than 170 people with various backgrounds attended and contributed to the discussions at this conference on nutrient recycling and recovery.
Closing nutrient cycles is essential to develop a more efficient and sustainable food and feed production systems and protect the environment. However more action needs to be undertaken to develop a holistic approach to nutrient management.
Being one of the major events on nutrient recycling, with 12 member projects, the 2023 ESNI Conference provided a comprehensive framework of the policies promoting the nutrient recycling and recovery (NRR) at European level. There is also a clear focus on the role of EU-funded R&I projects to raise awareness on the benefits of nutrient recycling and reuse.
This year, 12 European-funded projects and the EU4Algae platform joined forces with the Biorefine Cluster Europe to give an insight on the most innovative solutions developed to create value added products from nutrient recycling as well as their major outcomes both from a policy and stakeholder perspectives.
On technical, commercial and regulatory level, there are still barriers that need to be dealt with. One of the findings at ESNI was that legislation, the cost and the social acceptance have the biggest impact on the acceptance of new bio-based fertilisers.
On the other hand, the geopolitical situation could be a potential opportunity for biobased fertilisers, next to the willingness-to-pay from the farmer and the consumer, which is also location specific. In any case, confidence and education of these stakeholders are key elements when trying to create acceptance for biobased fertilisers.
Policy is key
The European Commission is undoubtably a key stakeholder to reach more nutrient recycling and recovery at European level. Representatives from 3 Directorate Generals (DG Agriculture, DG Growth and DG Environment) and the Head of the European Research Executive Agency attended the ESNI conference and presented a state of affairs within their domain.
The conference offered a platform for fruitful discussion and exchange of knowledge where policy-makers, researchers, industry representatives and many other stakeholders shared ideas on how to raise awareness on the benefits of nutrient recycling and reuse.
Europe enjoys many research projects oriented at optimisation of nutrient cycles in the agro-food chain, reducing losses to the environment and recycling nutrients to replace primary resources. Many of these European projects are already finding each other in the Biorefine Cluster Europe for collaboration in terms of communication such as joint events, joint promotion via social media, joint policy briefs etc.
At the ESNI 2023 event the ESNI Community was launched under the supported umbrella of the Biorefine Cluster Europe. This community places more focus on the people and experts themselves, organised via 4 topical working groups in which to collaborate across and beyond projects: Sustainability, Agronomy, Technology and Policy.