Enabling Underused Bio-Waste Feedstocks into Safe and Effective Market-Ready Soil Improvers

The urgency related to soil health has taken centre stage in European and global environmental policies. The European Commission has set new targets with the EU Mission Soil Health and Food, aiming to ensure that 75% of soils attain robust health by 2030, and ultimately reaching 100% by 2050. The new Soil Health Law proposal, planned to be adopted by the European Commission in summer 2023, also outlines conditions for healthy soil, options for monitoring it, and rules for sustainable soil use and restoration.

A paradigm shift in soil management practices, such as replacing mineral fertilisers with bio-waste soil improvers, holds tremendous potential to contribute to the Farm-to-Fork targets, especially the ambitious goal of reducing mineral fertiliser usage by 20% by 2030. However, the limited range of current commercial technologies, safety concerns, low product efficacy, and insufficient market awareness are hindering the widespread adoption of bio-waste soil improvers.

The new European Horizon project, SOILUTIONS, is on a mission to remove barriers to market access for these innovative products. Over the next three years (2023-2026), this ambitious initiative aims to revolutionise soil health and reduce the reliance on mineral fertilisers. It will do so by focusing on the further development of four bio-based valorisation routes: hydrolysate animal blood, frass, and two chemical compounds (N-struvite and K-struvite) that will be transformed into market-ready soil improvers.

Taking a multi-actor and co-creative approach, SOILUTIONS is setting up three Living Labs in Flanders (Belgium), Valencia (Spain), and Murcia (Spain) to ensure the development of tailored bio-waste soil improvers and efficiently promote their market access and uptake. The project aims to engage a broad array of key value chain actors, including land managers, city councils, farmers, soil companies, suppliers, end-users, and policymakers in the three target regions and beyond to guarantee a good market fit of the developed soil improvers, coverage of sectorial needs and compliance with regulatory requirements.

The CSCP, as a project partner, will play a central role in coordinating the multi-stakeholder engagement process. It will establish and coordinate the three SOILUTIONS Living Labs, supporting the Living Lab implementers throughout the process using CSCP tools and methodologies. To foster collaboration and knowledge exchange among all stakeholders within and across the Living Labs, the CSCP will actively contribute to project communication and dissemination activities, facilitating synergies among the three living labs. Moreover, the CSCP will set up an Impact Board, comprising stakeholders and project partners, to monitor the engagement process and assess achieved impacts, deriving valuable insights for scaling up the Living Labs.

SOILUTIONS embarks on a transformative journey towards a sustainable future by addressing technical, economic, and multi-actor aspects. This comprehensive, systemic approach aims to trigger a positive environmental ripple effect, fostering the market uptake of innovative and effective bio-waste soil improvers while catalysing soil recovery and promoting circularity of processes.

The SOILUTIONS project is funded under the European Union’s Horizon Europe research programme and will run for three years (2023-2026), carried out by a consortium of 12 European partners.