The Icelandic land-based salmon farming group Landeldi leads the joint project funded with almost EUR 6.3 million from the Environment and Climate Program of the European Union, LIFE. The objective is to develop new technologies to reuse waste by producing fertilizers and biogas from organic waste as a by-product of land-based aquaculture and agriculture.
The Icelandic Farmers’ Association, Orkidea – a collaborative project on innovation in South Iceland -; Ölfus Cluster – a group of companies and public bodies focused on sustainable development and the green and blue economy -; and SMJ– an engineering consulting firm from the Faroe Islands -, are Landeldi’s partners in Terraforming LIFE. Moreover, the project is supported by Blue Ocean Technology in Norway, specialists in the production of sludge treatment plants.
From waste to energy, fertilizer, and biochar
“The plan is to take fish sludge, dead fish, sludge from organic waste and agriculture through their processing plants and create valuable energy, fertilizer and biochar of high quality,” explained Blue Ocean Technology. To achieve this, the Norwegian company uses a pyrolysis process. This technology, which also allows for efficient carbon capture, is the only established method for negative carbon production.
Notably, Terraforming LIFE is the first Icelandic-led project to receive a grant from the EU LIFE program. Icelandic aquaculture has a strong commitment to sustainability and the environment, not only from the current regulations but also from the producers themselves. It is therefore not surprising that a salmon producer like Landeldi is leading this project which, while reducing the carbon footprint, will strengthen the circular economy in food production and promote a more positive environmental impact.
Collaboration between aquaculture and agriculture
But, in addition to its environmental impact, if there is one thing this project stands out for, it is for being collaborative. Runar Thor Thorarinsson, project coordinator and representative of Landeldi, stressed the importance of this broad collaboration. “This includes an extremely exciting opportunity for the utilization of organic side streams from fish farming on land. The products will benefit the Icelandic cycle system and improve the environmental impact of aquaculture by producing not only fertilizer for agricultural production, but also carbon-neutral fuel, electricity and heat,” he noted.
For his part, the president of the Farmers’ Association, Gunnar Þorgeirsson, stressed that the project will serve to improve the resilience and independence of agriculture and food production in Iceland. “One of the biggest challenges we farmers have faced in recent years has been the huge increase in fertilizer prices,” he explained. “This project will reduce its impact by increasing the availability of domestic fertilizers. Farmers are excited about the project, as they want to be at the forefront of developing solutions to the climate problem, but the project reduces agriculture’s ecological footprint.”
Circular economy and opportunities for South Iceland
As mentioned, the Terraforming LIFE project has received a grant of almost EUR 6.3 million from the EU through its Environment and Climate Program, LIFE 2021-2027. This is the only EU funding program entirely dedicated to environmental, climate, and energy objectives. It aims to protect and improve the quality of the environment, contributing to the shift towards a clean, circular, energy-efficient, climate-neutral, and climate-resilient economy.
In the municipality where the program will take place, Ölfus, in southern Iceland, there is an emphasis on the circular economy and on using and reusing all current resources as much as possible. Something that is very much present in this project, as Sveinn Adalsteinsson, manager of the Orkidea collaborative project on innovation, explained. “The project involves a lot of knowledge and technology development for the implementation of the circular economy, which gives us all very exciting possibilities and opportunities for innovation and business development in South Iceland,” he said.