Wastewater from the food and drink sector typically contains high concentrations of biodegradable organic matter. These pollutants are challenging to filter out of sewage systems and can contaminate natural water bodies. Many industrial processes to treat industrial effluents carrying organic matter are optimised for large factories, where economies of scale make vast technology investments affordable. In contrast, the food and drink sector is dominated by small and medium-sized enterprises who do not discharge enough wastewater for existing anaerobic digestion reactors to prove economically viable. Cheaper reactors could help food and drink companies use water resources in a safer and more efficient manner, as set out in the EU Water Framework Directive, and save natural resources, as described in the Industrial Emissions Directive.
The LIFE Multi-AD 4 AgroSMEs project aims to design and industrialise an anaerobic digestion reactor capable of economically treating wastewater discharged by small companies operating in Europe?s food and drink sector. Project partners will scale-up a patented prototype to capacities of 25-500 cubic metres (considerably smaller than existing anaerobic reactors whose size averages 2 500 cubic metres). An automated control system will optimise the digestion process, breaking down the organic matter contained in effluents regardless of variations in its composition over time. In view of tailoring models to sub-sectors of the food and drink industry, project partners will develop software for dimensioning future reactors. The project will notably demonstrate its anaerobic reactor in a Spanish winery and help transfer the technology to vegetable processing plants in Navarra, Spain.
These tasks will contribute to ensuring the safe and efficient use of water resources in line with the Water Framework Directive (2000/60/EC), to have a resource-efficient industrial sector in the whole EU (Industrial Emissions Directive (IED, 2010/75/EU), and ultimately to foster the use of renewable energy in industry (Renewable Energy Directive 2009/28/EC).