Source: James Gaffey

A new mobile refinery is travelling across the west of Ireland to visit farmers and turn their grass into new materials like green fertilisers and energy as well as more sustainable animal feed that could help curb deforestation.

Along the windy west coast of Ireland a biorefinery on wheels is turning grass into a series of different green products that could give farmers a more diversified source of income.

“The Biorefinery Glas project is Ireland’s first grass-fed small-scale biorefinery demonstration” said James Gaffey, a researcher at the Institute of Technology, Tralee in county Kerry which is leading the project. …

In the Netherlands, researchers are re-using wastewater from a brewery by treating it through an engineered ecosystem. Image credit — Christos Makropoulos

Transforming the dirty water we flush down the drain into new products, such as clean energy and fertilisers, can help prevent reservoirs from running dry and change the way this valuable resource is viewed.

Currently, water use risks leaving half the world facing severe scarcity by 2030 as demand outstrips supply. The linear way our societies and industries think about water — constantly extracting it for use and then dumping it back into oceans and rivers — is unsustainable in a world facing the challenges of a growing population and climate change.

‘Natural water resources are not endless,’ said Dr…

The infrastructure for turning seaweed into a sustainable alternative for livestock feed, chemicals and energy is still in its infancy. Image credit — MacroFuels

Seaweed has long been touted for its potential as a sustainable ingredient for biofuels, green chemicals and biodegradable materials, but scaling up production to industrial levels in a way that maintains its environmental credentials is proving a real challenge for scientists.

The potential is there, all the data points to it,’ said Dr Jaap van Hal, innovation manager at ECN, part of TNO (formerly Energy research Centre of the Netherlands). ‘But you have to learn how to crawl before you can walk.’

Each year 25 million tonnes of seaweed is harvested, most of which is in Asia and used for…

Business as usual in agriculture will see no more than a 10% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 — but there are other approaches. The most ambitious of these could see up to an 81% reduction -with targets and taxes — a report finds.

photo by Chris_LeBoutillier

A report from the Institute for European Environmental Policy (IEEP), an environmental think tank, says EU agriculture will struggle to balance the greenhouse gases it emits with the amount it can remove from the atmosphere — unless it adopts emission targets and taxes.

A griculture and other rural land uses have the ability to both…

Better tracking of forest data will make the climate change reporting process easier for countries who want compensation for protecting their carbon stock. Image credit — lubasi, licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Every year 7 million hectares of forest are cut down, chipping away at the 485 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) stored in trees around the world, but low-cost drones and new satellite imaging could soon protect these carbon stocks and help developing countries get paid for protecting their trees.

‘If you can measure the biomass you can measure the carbon and get a number which has value for a country,’ said Pedro Freire da Silva, a satellite and flight system expert at Deimos Engenharia, a Portuguese technology company.

International financial institutions, such as the World Bank and the European Investment…

photo: Pexels via

The Institute for European Environmental Policy (IEEP) analysed the CAP’s new plan to increase environmental action and found it falls short on the ambition and finance needed to shift EU agriculture towards a sustainable future.

In June 2018, the European Commission released plans for the next CAP which outlined a new way for member states to approach the environmental and climate challenges their countries face. The Commission proposes to replace the current green payments with ‘eco-schemes’ that are tailored by national governments, which Brussels hopes will translate into better action on the ground.

It is a shift away from the…

Agriculture should be a good example of a circular economy, but modern farming practices and international markets have changed that. Image credit — Hemmo/ Pixabay.

Turning crop waste and discarded paper into a material called biochar could help to capture carbon from the atmosphere and store it in the soil while also helping to enrich farmland.

Agriculture has historically been a circular industry where crops use nutrients in the soil to grow which are then replaced through compost or manure. But globalisation and industrialisation of the food supply chain has disrupted this cycle, driving farming practices that have helped degrade a third of the planet’s land.

Scientists are now looking at ways of tackling this problem with an approach that will not only restore nutrients…

In the future, produce could be grown directly in supermarkets or restaurants. Image credit — infarm

A new way to farm indoors using different wavelengths of light could boost the taste of fruits, salads and herbs, while also increasing food supply and nutritional value.

Growing food inside brings many benefits to farmers by reducing the amount of land, fertilisers, energy and water needed to cultivate the plants.

But it can come with a major drawback — produce grown indoors sometimes lacks the depth of flavour it would have if it was allowed to flourish and ripen outside.

And it is the controlled environment of indoor farming itself that seems to be at least partly responsible.


Art by Aleksandra Djordjevic

In late September Switzerland had two public votes that would have forced their parliament to implement measures to better support domestic sustainable agriculture and to tax, or outright ban, unsustainable and unethical produce coming into the country.

The ‘Food Sovereignty’ Initiative, supported by agricultural union Uniterre and environmental groups like Slow Food, and the Swiss Green party’s ‘Fair Food’ Initiative gathered over 100,000 public signatures. According to Swiss law, this sparks a referendum-like vote that would see their parliament implement the proposals into policy, if it passed.

At first most Swiss supported the proposals with one survey showing over 70%

With the EUPHEME project, Prof. Stott is linking extreme heatwaves and resulting wildfires to climate change. Image credit — Pixabay/stevebp, licensed under CC0

The pattern of heatwaves causing record breaking temperatures across the northern hemisphere would not be seen without climate change, and they have firmly focused the conversation on what we can do about it rather than whether it’s happening, according to Peter Stott, professor of detection and attribution of climate change at the University of Exeter, UK.

A study of this summer’s heatwave says that it was two times more likely to happen than if human activities hadn’t changed the climate. So, can we say that climate change has caused the heatwave?

‘If you talk about any one event, you can’t…

Steve Gillman

Writer exploring sustainability, generally in agriculture and food business.

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