From Co-PI Dr. Dylan Gwynn Jones, Aberystywth University
We all know how overly dependent we are on fossil fuels for our lives, yet their burning has adverse consequences for our future climate. Many will instantly think about the impacts of transport and heating – but not about the food we eat. Some may not know that the inorganic fertilizers we use to grow crops and forages uses ~3% of global fossil fuels in the form of natural gas. We take nitrogen from the atmosphere and turn it into inorganic fertilizer via processes that are highly intensive in terms of energy use. Some might argue that half of us would not be here but for the Haber-Bosch process that exploits nitrogen from the atmosphere. However, we become addicted to producing inorganic nitrogen, and cheap fossil fuels have fed into this problem.
The pandemic has shaken the fossil fuel tree. Mismatches between fossil fuel supply and demand – plus commercial and international game playing and exchange rate fluctuations – has resulted in price volatility and even geo-political tensions founded on fossil fuel supply. The now rapidly rising fossil fuel costs are being passed on to farmers when they purchase inorganic fertilizer, then to retailers and ultimately the consumer – food inflation is something we must all accept, and this problem is a global one!
Brainwaves focuses on exploiting organic nitrogen sources, which, while not immune, could give farmers space against fossil fuel price volatility and could be the way forward in the future. If the price of fossil fuels increases, then so does fertilizer costs and animal feed. We are focused on two big goals – 1) sustainable high protein feed production and 2) cleaning the environment of nitrogenous waste. To meet these goals, we exploit farm waste that is high in nitrogen and phosphorus! We want to isolate the farming industry from reliance on fossil fuels and work with them to help sequester carbon and reduce environmental pollution.
Brainwaves might be green but is also very ripe for today and our shared tomorrow.
Interested in this exciting work? Please visit our website, follow us on Twitter, or contact Project Manager Anna Power at firstname.lastname@example.org