The University of Portsmouth is playing a major role in a European project using agricultural and fisheries waste to develop sustainable methods and products to improve soil quality and reduce CO2 emissions.

The Horti-BlueC project has received €3,353,732 funding from the European Regional Development Fund, under the Interreg2Seas programme, to increase the use of new circular economy solutions in the coastal areas of England, France, Belgium and the Netherlands.

The circular economy is one that exchanges the typical cycle of make, use, dispose in favour of as much re-use and recycling as possible.

The aim of the project is to replace non-renewable horticultural resources (chemical fertilisers, pesticides and growing media such as peat, coir or stonewool) with local and renewable agriculture, food and fisheries waste. This waste can then be turned into bio-energy, biochar (charcoal that is used as a soil amendement which can hold carbon in soil for hundreds to thousands of years) and a biodegradable material called chitin to use as soil substrates and fertilisers.

Professor Joan Farrer, Associate Dean (Enterprise & Innovation) in the Faculty of Creative and Cultural Industries (CCI) is Principal Investigator on the project and CCI Senior Research Fellow Dr Cressida Bowyer is co-investigator.

Professor Farrer said: “We want to create innovative business climate by novel cultivation methods and products that satisfy demanding environmental and health criteria set by customers, which include CO2 reduction for global warming reduction and lower nutrient losses and pesticide residues and no human pathogens on fruits and vegetables.

“Through the stimulation of technological development and innovation, the aim is to boost innovation, in particular relative to maritime and horticultural activities, by adopting resource-efficiency solutions.”

As part of the Horti-BlueC project, the University of Portsmouth will receive €332, 263 for cross-faculty research and funding for a PhD bursary.

In collaboration with commercial growers, Dr Matthew Tallis, Dr Mridula Chopra and Professor Alex Ford in the Faculty of Science will investigate the role of chitin as a plant growth substrate. Dr Alex Kao in the Faculty of Technology will use the x-ray tomography imaging facilities at the Zeiss Centre to characterise the chitosan and image chemical and molecular interactions between the chitosan and the plant roots. Professor Lisa Jack from the Faculty of Business and Law will advise on accounting practices in the agri-food industry and management control in food supply chains.

The images generated will be integrated by Dan McCabe, Sue Noble, Alex Counsell, Stephen Pearse, Toby Meredith and Clifford Phillips from the Faculty of Creative and Cultural Technologies into computer animations, apps, graphics and physical attributes (printed textiles and illustrative fashion) for exhibition and public dissemination to inform and educate stakeholders, the commercial sector and the wider public about the project innovations and to encourage uptake.

Dr Cressida Bowyer said: “A number of colleagues from many different disciplines and backgrounds will join the project, which is a significant success for the University and Interreg2Seas regions.”

Lead partner on the project is Bart Vandecasteele from the Institute for Agricultural, Fisheries and Food Research, Merelbeke, Belgium.  There are nine partners from Interreg2Seas region from industry, academia and public bodies.  

For further information on the Horti-BlueC project , please contact Dr Cressida Boywer at [email protected]