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Powering AgriFood: the role of food production in the energy system

Published on in System Integration

On 1 December, Professor Aravind PV from the University of Groningen (RUG) will start the two-year research project ‘Powering Agrifood’. The research, with a total budget of EUR 200,000, is fully financed by project partners from the energy and agricultural industry and knowledge institutions and focuses on the energy system in the agricultural and food processing industry. Because the sector is highly innovative, the expectation is that there will be much to gain in terms of energy efficiency and application of new technology.

The agri-food value chain, which consists of many different companies ‘from farm to fork’, is a global leader in product and process innovations. New technologies offer the sector opportunities to accelerate the energy transition while reducing its own energy costs and carbon footprint.

Energy-efficient La Trappe beer

The research follows two tracks. On the one hand, it looks at how farmers, cooperatives and processing companies themselves can have an impact on local or regional energy systems. The various energy streams (biomass, solar and wind energy) that are available and needed offer unique opportunities for the self-sufficiency or flexibility of the energy system within the sector – for example, heat, power, fuel for agricultural vehicles and transport.

In addition, the use and potential of innovative energy techniques in the production process will be researched. For example, a fuel cell running on biogas is being used at the Koningshoeven Abbey, where monks brew the famous La Trappe beer. Initially, the research team will convert the remains of the brewing process and the associated water purification into electricity and heat for the brewery. Because the chosen technology is flexible, other conversions will also be tested, such as hydrogen production from renewable energy.

The ultimate goal of the research team is to find out how modern technology can be successfully deployed (economically) to provide access to clean energy for farmer cooperatives and agro-industrial companies worldwide.

Project partners

The project is fully funded by the project partners: EBN, GasTerra, Gasunie, NAM, Royal Cosun, Abdij Onze Lieve Vrouw van Koningshoeven, Delta Agrifood Business, Biosfera foundation, iRCB Ltd., Delft University of Technology, University of Groningen and AVANS University of Applied Sciences and New Energy Coalition. More information on the project can be found on the web page