phd project (refarm)

Pioneering the link between livestock farming and resource recovery: Correlating production chain effects with the treatment of animal manure

Animal manure is the largest secondary source of phosphorus and contains significant amounts of nitrogen and potassium. The proper reuse of these nutrients is essential for increasing sustainability in agriculture. It will also play an important role in the energy transition, producing biogas and biomethane to achieve a reduction in fossil fuel consumption and CO2 emissions. The carbon returning to soil via land application can contribute to soil structure and strengthen soil health. A sustainable treatment of animal manure that can unlock the valorization of various resources will be of high societal relevance in the Netherlands and in the rest of the world.

At Wetsus, we developed resource recovery technologies that recover methane and phosphorus simultaneously during anaerobic digestion. These processes originated from source-separated wastewater treatment but recently were adapted to animal manure treatment. However, the mechanisms during animal manure treatment differ from those of wastewater treatment.

Research challenges
The complexity of the composition of animal manure made the recovery processes more challenging than those from wastewater. In previous research, phosphorus recovery could be achieved from manure, but the process required more steering through chemical addition than desired. We identified competition between cations, kinetics of precipitation and abundance of inorganic carbon, among others, as obstacles and hypothesized how they affect the recovery mechanism.

In the upcoming research, we are looking to dive into the characterization of animal manure related to farming circumstances and how this affects the following treatment processes. One challenge is correlating animal diet parameters to manure characterization, process challenges, and the resulting opportunities for resource recovery. Investigating the steps along manure production, the effect on the treatment, the detailed mechanisms of biological and crystallization processes, and the design of (bio)reactors require a variety of skills to create simplicity from complexity.

Your assignment
You will engage in understanding the entire chain of livestock farming and the effect of variations in this chain on the composition of animal manure. This will link the results of your characterization and understanding of correlation with the consequences for treatment processes. You will use various analytical methods to define physico-chemical and biological parameters and study their optimization regarding resource recovery. You will pioneer the link between livestock production and management and the recovery and reuse of resources. Your input will help the entire production chain to establish better practices based on deeper understanding. You will collaborate with a team of researchers to cover the entire process from many angles. The implementation of your understanding in the ReFarM project will contribute to more sustainable agriculture. You will collaborate with stakeholders, moving toward a more sustainable use of resources.

Your Profile
You hold an MSc degree in chemical or environmental engineering or sciences, biotechnology, or similar studies, or you have a background in natural sciences but a strong affinity for engineering. Previous experiences with resource recovery processes are a plus, and mastering the German or Dutch language is a strong plus.

Keywords: (Bio)Crystallization, Calcium Phosphate, Resource recovery, Biotechnology, Agriculture

Supervisory team: University promotor and co-promotor: Prof. Dr. Ir. Cees Buisman and Dr. Renata van der Weijden (Wageningen University, Environmental Technology)
Wetsus supervisor: Dr. Ir. Chris Schott

Only applications that are complete, in English, and submitted via the application webpage before the deadline will be considered eligible.

Guidelines for applicants:

Application form 2024.11: Pioneering the link between livestock farming and resource recovery: Correlating production chain effects with the treatment

  • You can only apply to one research project and indicate your second and third preferences (if applicable). Fill in the number (not the title) of the project, e.g., 2024.01
  • Fill in the number (not the title) of the project, e.g., 2024.01
  • Fill in the number (not the title) of the project, e.g., 2024.01
    i.e., in the first 4 years of your research career (full time equivalent) and not have a doctoral degree.
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