We coordinate a European project to convert tonnes of fishery waste into biofertilisers

16 February 2021

We coordinate a European project to convert tonnes of fishery waste into biofertilisers

  • The goal of the SEA2LAND project is to reuse fishery and aquaculture waste to produce bio-based fertilisers with innovative processes
  • Fishing waste in the European Union amounts to 5.2 million metric tonnes per year
  • The project is part of the European strategy, advocated for by the Basque Government, which is driving the bio-resource-based economy as the economic model of the future

 The European project coordinated by NEIKER, “Producing advanced bio-based fertilisers from fishery waste(SEA2LAND), set the goal of offering solutions to produce bio-based fertilisers from fish processing and aquaculture by-products.

Each year, the global fishing industry generates more than 20 million metric tonnes of by-products, the majority of which are not leveraged. Once the catch is processed, 25% of it is discarded as waste. This includes unwanted species and other industrial fish processing waste. In the European Union, this waste amounts to a total of 5.2 million metric tonnes per year. This waste contains minerals like nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium, iron, copper, and zinc, in addition to vitamins and other compounds that could be recovered and leveraged in agriculture.

Around 80% of fertiliser consumption in Europe currently comes from fossil fuels and industrial processes requiring large amounts of energy or non-renewable energy sources like phosphorous, a key element for farming that is classified as a critical raw material by the European Union.

Paradoxically, European agriculture largely depends on external sources to supply these fertilisers while, at the same time, large quantities of minerals are being discharged into the environment in various organic waste streams including the above-mentioned fishery waste. Leveraging this waste will allow 1.8 million metric tonnes of nitrogen to be recovered and used for farming.


Improvement and adaptation of nutrient recovery technology

In this context, the SEA2LAND project funded by the European Union’s H2020 programme with a total of 8.8 million euros aims to provide solutions that will help overcome challenges related to food production, climate change and reusing waste by leveraging these organic waste streams. To this end, the project will work on improving and adapting nutrient recovery technology to produce bio-based fertilisers with fish processing and aquaculture by-products.

SEA2LAND is part of the European strategy to drive the bioeconomy – an economy based on biological resources – as the economic model of the future. It is also part of the Basque Government’s strategy of fostering the transition to the bioeconomy.

The bioeconomy is based on using renewable biological resources and attempts to shift the traditional economic model towards one that ensures the supply chain and also the conservation of natural resources.  One of the fundamental measures of this philosophy is leveraging all products created in production system, thereby eliminating the concept of ‘waste’ as much as possible, as it becomes another raw material.

SEA2LAND will optimise technology, some of which is combined (advanced composting, biodrying, freeze concentration and extraction, algaculture, pyrolysis, membrane technology, chitin extraction, thermal-mechanical fractionation, enzymatic hydrolysis, etc.) to generate bio-based fertilisers customised both for local crops and conditions as well as for export.

The project is based on regional biofertiliser production in a local and circular framework by developing pilot plants that can be replicated throughout Europe.  The project proposes applying more than 10 technologies in seven case studies in six areas representative of the fisheries sector (North, Baltic, Atlantic, Cantabrian, Mediterranean, and Adriatic).


26 partners from 11 countries

The SEA2LAND project is a four-year collaborative Innovation Action (IA) funded by the EU with €7.7 million within the framework of the Horizon 2020 programme under tender H2020-RUR-2020-1. SEA2LAND started in January 2021 and the first coordination meeting was held on 27 and 28 January.

The SEA2LAND project is coordinated by the NEIKER technology centre and has another 25 members from 11 different countries: Université de Liège (ULIEGE), Fibl Europe – Forschungsinstitut für biologischen Landbau in Europe (FIBL EU) and Universiteit Gent (UGENT) in Belgium; IPS Konzalting Doo Za Poslovne Usluge (IPS) in Croatia; Nutriloop Ou (NUTRI) and Eesti Taimekasvatuse Instituut (ECRI) in Estonia; Center Regional D’Innovation et de Transfert de Technologie Agroressources (CATAR), Institut national polytechnique de Toulouse (INPT) and Chambre D’Agriculture des Pyrenees Atlantiques (CAPA) in France; Università Politecnica delle Marche (UNIVPM), Università degli Studi di Milano (UMIL) and Società Cooperativa Pescatori Molluschicoltori (CO.PE.MO) in Italy; Aquabiotech Limited (ABT) in Malta; Gronn Gjodsel As (Grønn), Norsk institutt for biookonomi (NIBIO) and Norsk Landbruksradgiving Nord Norge (NLR-NN) in Norway; Instituto de Soldadura e Qualidade (ISQ) in Portugal; Barna SA, Caviar Pirinea SL, AZTI, Fundacio Universitaria Balmes (UVIC-UCC), Fertinagro Biotech SL, Iniciativas Innovadoras Sal (INI) in Spain; Forschungsinstitut für biologischen Landbau Stiftung (FIBL-CH) in Switzerland and the Instituto de Investigaciones Agropecuarias (INIA) in Chile.