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Costa Rica to transform pineapple production waste into biofertilizers

The first plant in Costa Rica capable of transforming pineapple production waste into an environmentally friendly fertilizer will start operating in Upala, Northern Zone, at the end of October 2017.

The machine, whose construction is already at an advanced stage, will operate in the farm Valle del Tarso, which is devoted to the organic production of the fruit. It is the pilot plan of a project that seeks to reduce the amount of waste generated by the pineapple harvest.

The implementation of the plant was undertaken by the administration of Valle del Torso. The goal is to manage the 220 tonnes of waste generated per hectare.

Although no data on the exact costs are available yet, such a large-scale plant usually costs between $ 1.5 and $ 2 million.

The project has been developed by the Costa Rican Electricity Institute (ICE) in coordination with the Ministries of Agriculture and Livestock, of Environment and Energy, and of Economic Planning and Development.

It is also funded by the Spanish Agency for International Cooperation for Development (AECID).

The country already has plants dedicated to the treatment of pig and bovine waste, as well as of the residual water left by the production of vegetable oil. However, there is no such solution for the management of pineapple production waste.

Responsible management
So far, the biggest problem for pineapple producers has been that the roots, stem and leaves of the fruit are left in the field; that is, they are not removed from the soil after the harvest.

Producers choose to apply an agrochemical to burn them, or to crush them and leave them on the ground.

When left on the ground, this waste attracts the stable fly (Stomoxys calcitrans), which is harmful to cattle and a carrier of diseases.

Evelio Chaves, owner of the Valle del Tarso farm, commented that the management of the fruit's waste has become a problem for the producers due to the lack of research, development and application of modern techniques for its treatment.

Carolina Hernández, coordinator of the ICE Biogas Program, said that with the plant it will no longer be necessary to burn or crush the waste and leave it in the environment.

"Rather, the idea is to remove them, bring them to a collection centre and treat them in the biodigester to turn them into biofertilizers," explained the specialist.

With this, according to her, the use of agrochemicals is reduced, which is good for the environment.

"What matters most is that we are generating a cycle of nutrients for the production, which would reduce the need for synthetic fertilizers and improve the structure of the soil," she explained.

The specialist said that the period of time needed to eliminate this waste would be reduced from 12 to 6 weeks, which should have a positive impact on the work of producers.

Waste with energy potential
And what is the use of agricultural waste? Organic waste (such as that from pineapples, in this case) contains biomass, which has energy potential.

That biomass would be used by the plant not only to produce biofertilizers, but also bio-gas; an alternative fuel that could be used to generate electricity.

This consequently makes it an alternative source to the hydroelectric energy (generated from water) used in the country. The plant's initiative is in the framework of the National Applied Mitigation Actions (NAMA) program, with emphasis on biomass residual energy.

With this, the goal is to transform organic waste into a renewable energy source.

The progress made in the construction of the new machine was revealed during the announcement of the results of the "Support to the National Climate Change Program in Costa Rica: Improvement of mitigation and adaptation capacity", held on Monday 28 August at the Radisson Hotel in San Jose.

The ICE Biogas Program has been in place for more than 10 years with private companies and large scale producers for the generation of thermal and electrical energy.

At this time, they have 2.6 megawatts of biogas set up at national level; a figure that is considered moderate if one takes into account the country's potential in that area.

Source: nacion.com

Publication date: 9/1/2017


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