Baltic Sea Action Group: The nutrient recycling project aims to renew the entire food chain

Finland is seeking a breakthrough in the recycling of nutrients used in the food chain. This would revolutionise the food chain and give Finland more know-how to export.

Part of nutrients used in agriculture are currently wasted. In the coastal states surrounding the Baltic Sea, this means nitrogen and phosphorus flows into the sea. At the same time, the nutrients are mined from other sources, which in turn means that we import nutrient loads into the Baltic Sea. Nitrogen and phosphorus runoffs into water bodies and the atmosphere occur everywhere where society's organic and nutritious products or waste are processed.

"We would not need to import any nitrogen or phosphorus into Finland if we recycled nutrients more efficiently. The Finnish nutrient recycling model can save the Baltic Sea," claims Mathias Bergman, Secretary General of the Baltic Sea Action Group. "Since eutrophication is occurring in every major ocean, the solutions applied in the Baltic Sea can be used globally."
The Baltic Sea Action Group (BSAG) was launched as early as 2008. It aims to save the Baltic Sea. BSAG is currently coordinating a nutrient recycling ecosystem which receives funding from Tekes.

Aiming to renew the entire food chain

"Fortunately, the situation is improving and nutrients are already being used more sensibly. However, their recycling is still in its early stages. Although it is difficult to find negative aspects in this, it will require a change in attitudes and a little bit of courage and work. Finland's agricultural traditions go back some 1,000 years. Now is the time to update them. On the other hand, in old days society recycled all of its essential raw materials", Bergman says.

The ultimate goal of the ongoing pilot is to export a nutrient recycling model, process, technical solutions and agricultural expertise. A technical solution could, for example, enable the recovery of nutrients from manure. Another purpose of the ecosystem is to create new kinds of fertiliser products and export product expertise from Finland to the world.

"Nutrient recycling aims to renew the entire food chain. In the future, consumers can find out how their food has been produced and how nutrients have been used in this process," Bergman explains. Current developments will make it possible to monitor nutrient use and production processes. This will enable consumers to make the right choices.

Circular economy high on the EU agenda

"The current economic system, where products are produced, purchased, used and thrown away, has reached the end of the road. The model of the future will involve manufacturing products from recycled raw materials, bought or rented, used, recovered and re-used. The change is already underway. The EU's Circular Economy Strategy, for example, places a major emphasis on nutrients. The Union is also amending its fertiliser legislation," Bergman says.

"In the beginning, we need an EU-level control system to ensure that things go well. However, for us and society, the goal is to establish genuine business that no longer needs support after it has begun."

In the first stage of the ecosystem, we brought together actors with expertise in nutrient recycling. We have now started the second stage which marks our transition from theory to implementation. It involves projects around themes such as field use and tractor design.

The ecosystem currently involves 50–60 participants, from research organisations to farms and businesses. There are some 10–15 projects. The ecosystem is still in need of private investors and financiers and productisation experts in particular.

"Everyone is required to understand what the issue involves – but, of course, this applies to all good business. Excellent solutions are Finland's strength, but we should learn to discuss them openly and commercialise them. For this, we need partnerships."

"The most beautiful and sensible part of the entire process is that it simultaneously creates new technology, expertise and business operations and new jobs, while restoring the ecological balance of the Baltic Sea. Nitrogen recovery and recycling also efficiently reduce climate change, which is of vital importance," Bergman says, summarising the importance of this Tekes project.

Nutrient recycling project is one of the ecosystems of Tekes BioNets programme.
Ecosystem coordinator, the Baltic Sea Action Group, develops the functioning of the ecosystem and leads identified business potentials to the goal. The research and development and growth and export projects and pilots may apply funding through Tekes' application periods.
Other Team Finland -services for getting the business solutions to the market are available too.

For further information, please contact:

Mathias Bergman
Tel. +358 50 380 7155
mathias.bergman(at)bsag.fi
Baltic Sea Action Group

Heikki Aro
Tel. +358 2950 36150
heikki.aro(at)tekes.fi
Tekes – the Finnish Funding Agency for Innovation

Sanna Nuutila