(AgroVal) Sustainable valorisation of agro-industrial residues through integration of food, bioproducts and bio-energy production


Start date: 1 March, 2022 End date: 31 May, 2026 Project type: Research projects in countries with extended development cooperation (earlier Window 1) Project code: 21-07-DTU Countries: Kenya Tanzania Thematic areas: Economic development and value chains, Food security and safety, Waste management, Lead institution: Technical University of Denmark (DTU), Denmark Partner institutions: Nelson Mandela African Institute of Science and Technology (NM-AIST), Tanzania Pwani University, Kenya Project website: go to website (the site might be inactive) Project coordinator: Irini Angelidaki Total grant: 11,998,331 DKK

Project summary

In the equatorial East African region (EA) including Tanzania, Kenya and Ethiopia, agriculture accounts for 80%, with coffee and sisal as the most important crops with 600 kiloton coffee and 100 kiloton sisal ropes produced annually. The related crop processing generates huge quantities of organic residues that form the bulk of waste products from Agro-processing in the region. The huge amounts of high organic containing wastewaters which are just desposed in ponds sieve away contaminating the underground. Moreover, the value of the product is relatively low and it could with appropriate research be upcycled to more valuable composite materials which could find more advanced applications and have a much higher price. In addition, the problem is many toxic compounds in coffee waste which hinders the opportunity for biogas production.
The AgroVal project will develop technologies to valorize the important agricultural crops of coffee and sisal. Coffee waste will be used to cultivate Oyster mushroom (Pleurotus ostreatus). During cultivation of the mushroom the coffee waste is degraded and detoxified by the action of enzymes excreted from the mushrooms. These novel enzymes will be identified and characterized for potential future applications. The value of sisal fibres will be increased by upgrading them to new high value products such as biocomposite materials with superior properties. Finally all the process residues will be codigested for production of the renewable energy carrier biogas. The AgroVal consortium consists from strong partners from the three EA countries mentioned above and two institutions of DTU (Chem. Eng. and Wind) with complementary expertise in biotechnology, chemistry, material science and microbiology, giving 5 PhD students opportunity to develop extensive expertise in the area of biorefinery technologies, biotechnology material science and sustainable development. The output of the project with development of novel technologies, have an impact on capacity building, bioeconomy, and CO2 emission reduction and ultimate improvement of living conditions. Previous collaboration between EA and Danish partners will give an assurance for successful execution of the AgroVal project.


First year report
The main objective of AgroVal project is the development of new platform technologies for circular bioeconomy strengthening, while contributing to capacity building in East Africa. More specifically, the agricultural residues of sisal plant and coffee processing will be used for mushroom cultivation, new enzymes production, co-digestion schemes establishment, and biocomposites production, targeting on zero waste. The aforementioned approaches are the main exploited among others, focusing on a circular bioeconomy scheme with a view to both high-value products and energy production.
The agricultural liquid and solid waste streams of both Sisal plant and coffee processing have been collected and physicochemically analyzed, while according to the results, it was indicated that such substrates can successfully be used as resources with added value, targeting various compounds groups: (a) phenols through extraction, (b) materials such as sisal yarn biocomposites or editable mushrooms, as well as (i) gaseous biofuels through the implementation of the anaerobic digestion process.
DTU and East Africa partners have extensively worked together, in a complementary and supporting mode, focusing not only on laboratory analyses and experimental work, but also on the dissemination of the results, as well as on co-supervision and guidance of the 7 PhD students enrolled.

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