A project entitled ‘BEFWAM-BIOENERGY, FERTILISER AND CLEAN WATER FROM INVASIVE AQUATIC MACROPHYTES’ for 1.9 million, submitted via the BBSRC call in Industrial Biotechnology and Bioenergy in the Developing World has been succesful. The call aims to support collaborative research projects addressing challenges relating to industrial biotechnology and bioenergy in the developing world and is funded from the UK government’s Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF).The project PI is Dr Ross with Co-Investigators in SCAPE (Dr Valerie Dupont and Prof John Blacker), Civil Engineering (Dr Miller Camargo-Valero and Dr Loise Fletcher) and in Geography (Prof Jon Lovett). The overseas project partners include the Centre for research in energy and energy conservation (CREEC) Uganda, the institute of chemical technology, Mumbai, India and Visva-Bharati University India. The project will focus on utilising invasive aquatic macrophytes such as water hyacinth in combination with nutrient rich waste and immobilised microbial systems to maximise the production of biogas whilst generating clean water and recovering nutrients in low income communities, by developing innovative biotechnology solutions that promote resource efficiency and long-term sustainable services. The project will provide practical solutions for processing water hyacinth with other wastes (e.g. faecal matter, food waste) in novel bioreactors. These ought to be capable of producing affordable clean energy (as per the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal # 7- a.k.a. SDG 7) with improved biogas yields and quality, and be suitable for use in cooking, refrigeration and power generation. The proposed processes of biogas production will be designed to be scaled appropriately to either urban areas (cities) and to smaller communities such as villages and schools (SDG 11).
In addition, the integrated approaches will allow the potential for the recovery of valuable nutrients from the macrophyte feedstock for growing food and for the production of clean water. The integrated approaches will result in reduced emissions and health impacts associated with combustion of wood (SDG 3) and support more sustainable use of biomass resources (SDG 13). The use of aquatic macrophytes as an alternative biomass resource for energy generation can mitigate the over-reliance on firewood for cooking, thus promoting a more sustainable use of biomass resources (SDG 12). It also provides a solution to the growing problem in many African and Asian regions associated with invasive macrophytes resulting from eutrophication and pollution associated with poor sanitation and regulation of industry (SDG 6, 9 and 13). BEFWAM will support knowledge transfer from high- and mid-income countries (UK and India) to low-income countries in Africa (Uganda) and the delivery of training and supporting partnerships between stakeholders and local business.This will be effected through the application of the innovative technologies developed within the project while all stages of development are to be informed by the analysis of the social implications of energy production from macrophytes and waste. Special emphasis of the social analysis will be devoted to the gender-poverty nexus.