Activity 4 – AI-based Tool for Turning Food Waste into Energy and Fertilizer

Summary:

Global population growth and rising food consumption have led to an increase in the generation of food waste. Inappropriate waste management has been recognized and proven to be a major cause of serious health problems due to harmful air pollution and environmental degradation. For instance, conventional processes such as landfills often produce methane emissions due to anaerobic digestion and the decomposition of organic waste in landfills. The escape of methane into the atmosphere generally contributes to a warming climate because it is a greenhouse gas 25 times more potent than CO2. In addition, the leachate produced during the decomposition of food waste is a major source of underground water pollution. Nearly 2.3 million tonnes of edible food is wasted each year, costing Canadians more than $20 billion, according to a study by the National Zero Waste Council on household food waste in Canada. This shows that local municipalities spend huge budgets on management, making food waste disposal a heavy burden on society.

Biogas, a natural metabolic by-product of microbial metabolism, can be used to reduce energy costs. The City of Ottawa has successfully collected biogas from food waste-induced landfill and created sufficient electricity to power 6,000 homes. However, the quality of the collected biogas is not high enough, as the methane content should be above 60% for maximizing its profit margin. This is mainly due to the fact that the rough sorting process of food waste does not accurately divide the organic material, as a range of C:N ratios is required for high-quality methane production. Too high or too low C:N ratios, caused by different ratios of carbohydrates and nitrogen-containing chemicals, inhibits methane production but promotes CO2 emissions. While it is well known that leachate contains a large number of nutrients in plant-available forms and is a potential substitute for fossil fuel-derived synthetic fertilizers, there is still a lack of sufficient evidence directly from field studies, especially for nutrient availability and different cropping regimes and safety assessment in different environments.

Researchers

Principal investigator

BAO-LUO MA
Research Scientist

AAFC-Ottawa R&D Centre
960 Carling Ave, Ottawa ON K1A 0C6

Co-applicant

NOURA ZIADI
Research Scientist

AAFC-Quebec R&D Centre
2560 Bd Hochelaga, Québec, QC G1V 2J3

Co-applicant

MERVIN ST. LUCE
Research Scientist

AAFC-Swift Current R&D Centre
1 Airport Road, Swift Current, SK S9H 3X2

Co-applicant

ATHYNA CAMBOURIS
Research Scientist – Testing biofertilizer on potato crops in Quebec and project development

AAFC- Quebec R&D Centre
2560 Hochelaga Boulevard, Québec, QC G1V 2J3

Co-applicant

TIEQUAN ZHANG
Research Scientist – Project Development and Site Manager at Harrow

AAFC-Harrow R&D Centre
2585 Essex County Rd 20, Harrow, ON N0R 1G0

Co-applicant

SANDRA YANNI
Research Scientist

AAFC-Lethbridge R&D Centre
5403 1st Ave S, Lethbridge, AB T1J 4B1

Co-applicant

JEAN LAFOND
Soil Science Specialist – Testing biofertilizer on wheat crops in Normandin and project development

AAFC- Quebec R&D Centre, Normandin Research Farm
1468 Rue Saint-Cyrille, Normandin, Quebec G8M 4K3

Objectives

  • Developing an image sensor-based food waste sorting platform and a small-scale fully automatic food waste processing equipment with deep learning algorithms.
  • Optimizing the parameters of anaerobic and aerobic fermentation processes for effectively recovering energy and nutrients from each category of sorted food.
  • Evaluating the recovered solid as biofertilizers under field conditions by comparing with commercial fertilizers.

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