The Australian National University (ANU) and Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) on Wednesday announced over US$685,000 in funding for the inaugural ANU-CSIRO Agri-Food Collaboration Program.
Inspired by breakthroughs in biological research, the team will seek to address the need to sustain Australia's agriculture industry in the face of climate change. Australia is a net exporter of food but the agriculture industry is largely reliant on imported fertilizer.
Harvesting resources including nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium from recycled organic waste for circular fertilizers would help make farming more sustainable, Caitlin Byrt, an ANU plant scientist, said, adding that there is high demand for the technologies across multiple industries.
"The technology we are developing takes inspiration from the membrane separation mechanisms evolved in nature to achieve selective separation of valuable nutrients, elements and water from complex liquid wastes," she pointed out.
"We will work with industry to test a prototype of our technology. If successful, the final product could have application across the agri-food sector, in industries including dairy, horticulture and food manufacturing," she explained, adding that the partnership is part of the national university and CSIRO's push to solve some of the challenges facing the world.
Researcher Cathryn O'Sullivan said this project will bring together a team of plant biologists, waste treatment experts, chemists and membrane technologists, from ANU and CSIRO, to develop an innovation that will enable the production of circular fertilizers that are safe and economically viable.