Using microalgae in the circular economy to valorise anaerobic digestate: challenges and opportunities

William A.V. Stiles, David Styles, Stephen P. Chapman, Sandra Esteves, Angela Bywater, Lynsey Melville, Alla Silkina, Ingrid Lupatsch, Claudio Fuentes Grünewald, Robert Lovitt, Tom Chaloner, Andy Bull, Chris Morris, Carole A. Llewellyn

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Managing organic waste streams is a major challenge for the agricultural industry. Anaerobic digestion (AD) of organic wastes is a preferred option in the waste management hierarchy, as this process can generate renewable energy, reduce emissions from waste storage, and produce fertiliser material. However, Nitrate Vulnerable Zone legislation and seasonal restrictions can limit the use of digestate on agricultural land. In this paper we demonstrate the potential of cultivating microalgae on digestate as a feedstock, either directly after dilution, or indirectly from effluent remaining after biofertiliser extraction. Resultant microalgal biomass can then be used to produce livestock feed, biofuel or for higher value bio-products. The approach could mitigate for possible regional excesses, and substitute conventional high-impact products with bio-resources, enhancing sustainability within a circular economy. Recycling nutrients from digestate with algal technology is at an early stage. We present and discuss challenges and opportunities associated with developing this new technology.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberS0960852418310290
JournalBioresource Technology
Early online date21 Jul 2018
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 21 Jul 2018


  • Anaerobic digestion
  • Algae
  • Nutrient recycling
  • Livestock feed
  • Circular economy


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