HB Ponics is an applied-research project that aims to produce expendable results, with an impact on key sectors (agriculture, energy, and environment) of the South Tyrolean economy. Although anaerobic digestion (hereinafter, AD) of zoo-technical waste is considered a sustainable form of energy production, it still has weaknesses that can be improved. In particular, digestate is a byproduct that is directly used for agricultural purposes or, if the parameters established by current
legislation are not respected, it is treated as a disposable waste, thus becoming an economic and environmental cost. The hydrothermal conversion process (HTC) has recently aroused the interest of the scientific community, configuring itself as a valid and effective alternative for the treatment of wet biomass and its transformation into a carbonaceous solid material (hereinafter, hydrochar) and in a nutrient rich liquid.
The innovation that the HB Ponics project wants to bring is based on the possibility of using hydrochar as a substrate for growing plants in hydroponic systems by also using the process liquid as a solution for fertirrigation.
Therefore, the main objectives of the HB Ponics project are:
• analyse the current methods of treatment / disposal of the digestate, highlighting its main problems;
• optimize the parameters of the HTC process with the aim of producing hydrochar and liquid fertilizers for hydroponic systems.
• acquire all the knowledge and know-how necessary to be able, in a second moment, to develop an optimized system of HTC for the treatment of digestate and an innovative hydroponic plant;
• analyze all aspects related to the potential business and the commercial value of these two new products.