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Developing a bioeconomy in rural Europe

Once the crops are planted, grown and harvested, many agricultural facilities sit unused. But converting them into bioproduction plants could extend their activity year-round - meaning more money for farmers and agriculture-based industries. To help, an EU-funded project developed and demonstrated a range of potential bio-based products that could be produced at these newly converted facilities.

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As many European agricultural industries are tied to the seasonal availability of their primary feedstocks, their capital goods and facilities go unused for a good portion of the year. To help monetise these gaps, the EU-funded project is working to create a new line of business that will allow agro-industries to fully exploit their capacities by extending their activity year-round.

“This will allow agro-industries to diversify their business, stabilise their annual activity, and enhance their competitiveness and revenues,” says María Izquierdo, a project manager at the CIRCE Foundation and AGROinLOG project manager. “To do this, we studied the viability of transforming an agro-industry into an integrated biomass logistics centre.”

An integrated biomass logistics centre (IBLC) is a bio-based business line that uses available facilities, equipment and staff to fill the months of low food activity. “IBLCs integrate a new, non-food value chain into the pre-existing food chain using biomass, waste or other residues,” explains Izquierdo. “The result is the production of bio-commodities that can be bought and used by the bioenergy and biorefinery markets.”

Identifying new bioproducts and bio-commodities

AGROinLOG tested its IBLC concept at companies in Greece, Spain and Sweden. For example, in Spain, researchers demonstrated the feasibility of using an IBLC in the fodder sector to produce blend pellets using materials from herbs and wood. In Greece, project researchers performed the first-ever demonstration of mechanised olive tree pruning and harvesting using integrated harvesting and shredding systems. In Sweden, they showed that advanced biofuels like 2G-bioethanol and bio oil can be produced from winter wheat straw.

“Thanks to these demonstrations, we identified technically feasible bioproducts and bio-commodities for the grain, feed, fodder and olive sectors,” remarks Izquierdo. Examples of these products include energy pellets, thermoplastics reinforced with natural fibres, bio-boards, adsorbents for hydrocarbon spills, activated carbon for electronic applications, bedding for rabbits, phenols extraction, bio oil and biochar pellets.

In addition to the demonstrations, the project also identified European regions and agricultural sectors with a high potential to replicate the IBLC concept. “The main conclusion of the project is that the implementation of IBLCs in agro-industries not only is viable, but may represent an important opportunity for diversification,” adds Izquierdo.

Creating employment opportunities

Researchers worked to transform the successful agro-industry demonstrations into full-fledged IBLCs – work that included optimising the supply chain and validating the quality of the new products.

“The business models designed for the three demo cases proved that they improve temporary employment and even contribute to create full-time jobs,” concludes Izquierdo. “Therefore, the implementation of the IBLC concept in agro-industries can help attract and retain populations in rural areas.”

Project researchers are currently working to replicate the use of IBLCs in other agro-industries. AGROinLOG has also served as the seed for other European research projects focused on the use of renewable feedstocks for producing bioenergy and other bio-commodities.

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Project details

Project acronym
Project number
Project coordinator: Spain
Project participants:
Total cost
€ 6 385 661
EU Contribution
€ 5 935 714
Project duration

See also

More information about project AGROinLOG

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