The organization of the first ManuREsource conference is a milestone in the history of the Flemish Coordination Centre for Manure Processing (VCM). VCM and the organizing partners Ghent University, POM West Flanders and Inagro look back at a successful conference with more than 210 participants, more than 50 presentations, 37 scientific posters, a lively panel discussion, etc. The conference took place on the 5th and 6th of December 2013 in a unique setting: the Provincial Court in Bruges. More than 25 nationalities attended the conference. Clearly not only in Flanders, but also in the other regions and member states from and outside Europe, more and more interest goes to the manure problem and possibilities for manure treatment.
Thanks to this ManuREsource conference several EU member states had the opportunity to exchange their expertise on topics like manure surpluses, manure treatment and nutrient recovery. Experts, researchers, policy makers and companies from all over the world were present to exchange knowledge and experiences. “It was a great opportunity to network with representatives from our industry” was one of the many positive reactions of the participants.
Before the conference, a guided visit was organized to a composting installation (Samagro nv) and a biological purification (Hof ter bussche) in West Flanders. The aim was to inform the international guests about manure treatment in Flanders.
Mr. Bart Naeyaert, president of VCM, opened the conference with the statement: “We are sorcerors, ManuREsourcers!”. This quote set the tone for the following two days.
Ms. Claudia Olazábal, Head of Unit Agriculture, Forest and Soil at DG Environment gave a distinct presentation on manure management in Europe, that can offer win-win solutions for both farmers and the environment. The European Commission approaches case by case to deal with the challenges of manure processing (legal framework, environmental performance, etc.). While taking care of manure treatment it is important not to lose focus on other topics such as customized fertilizing, soil management, etc.
Next, there was a panel discussion with representatives of several EU member states and regions. They were given the opportunity to bring their national/regional situation on manure surpluses forward. This was the start of a lively discussion between the panel members and the public, with additional reactions from the attending members of the European Commission, Claudia Olazábal and Eric Liégeois.
During the afternoon, the program offered several parallel sessions where international speakers represented their research on topics such as fertilization management and fertilizing value of manure treatment products as well as economics, marketing and quality aspects of manure treatment.
Professor Willy Verstraete opened the second day with an overview of the transition in manure treatment technology. He emphasizes that the supply side is too prevalent, and that the market demand side must dominate to create new markets for manure products. According to him, the future lies in large scale installations which provide the quality and the quantity of the recovered resources from manure the customers need.
Later that day several there were parallel sessions on energy production and nutrient recovery from manure, innovation in manure treatment and the environmental aspects of manure treatment.
Professor Michael Hamell completed the two-day conference with an overview of manure management and the potential of green fertilizers. As former head of Unit Agriculture of DG Environment, he often referred to the European Nitrates Directives, the Directive he helped drafting at the time. Manure is a source of energy and, with the correct technology, it can obtain a clear, stable composition that possibly can be used as an alternative for mineral based fertilizers. Therefore guaranteed quality is essential. During his speech, Mr. Hamell emphasized that green fertilizers can only lose their label of ‘animal manure’ if there is strong scientific evidence on the nutrient efficiency. Therefore further scientific research is of major importance.
Once more it became clear the manure problem has a lot of interfaces with different legislation (Water Directive, Nitrates Directive, fertilizer regulation, End of Waste, REACH, etc.). A better consistency between these regulations is necessary to foster a more efficient use and an increased recycling of nutrients from manure.
To stress this, a stakeholder declaration was launched at the conference. This declaration calls for a more efficient use of nutrients in manure. The declaration underlines the need for a stable, pragmatic, clearly defined and coherent framework, providing the necessary quality, to facilitate manure nutrient recycling.
In particular, the declaration calls for harmonized integration of recycled nutrients in the EU Fertilizer Regulation, consistency with the Water Framework Directive, REACH, End-of-Waste criteria, Waste Framework Directive, Animal By-products Regulations, Organic Farming Directive, Common Agricultural Policy, etc.
The declaration will now be submitted to EU consultative bodies in request of their support.
Besides the stakeholder declaration, there were more promising perspectives:
The initiative to found the ‘Biorefine Cluster Europe’: a R&D cluster bringing together projects related to energy and nutrient recovery from biomass.
The launching of the concept of a collaboration ‘North Sea Manure Initiative’. This is going to be set up in the next few months and aims at developing business cases for manure processing and developing markets for the end-products of manure processing. If you are interested in this initiative and want to know more, please contact VCM.
The first edition of this conference showed a huge international interest in manure management and it is now the cornerstone on which can be built in the future. Participants have already showed interest for a second edition!