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Food industry companies improve their competitiveness by collaborating with biomethane plants

19 de February de 2024





  • FEDACOVA and AVAESEN have held a conference on “Opportunities for the food industry in the recovery of its waste”.
  • Anaerobic digestion to obtain biogas stands out as a way of obtaining energy, decarbonising the economy and offering sustainable recovery of food industry waste.
  • Biomethane is an immediate option to decarbonise the food industry and provide a sustainable outlet for its waste, through its valorisation.

The associations representing food and energy companies in Valencia, FEDACOVA and AVAESEN, together with The Green Vector, a platform promoting biomethane plants promoted by Enagás Renovable and Genia Bioenergy, organised a conference attended by entrepreneurs from both sectors to discuss the opportunities for the food industry in the recovery of its waste, and to promote mutual collaboration. In addition, the conference was supported by the Valencian Administration through the presence of the Regional Secretary for Industry, Trade and Consumer Affairs, Felipe Carrasco.

FEDACOVA’s Innovation Agent and Deputy Director of FEDACOVA, Juan José Rico, stated that “the industry has been working for some time to recover its waste to try to obtain new compounds, fibres, sugars and other components”, while Pedro Fresco, Director of AVAESEN, stressed the importance of reaching a commitment with society and the business sector to commit to decarbonisation and energy independence.

Felipe Carrasco, Regional Secretary for Industry, Trade and Consumer Affairs, explained that for the Generalitat Valenciana, energy is a strategic vector, especially within the framework of the Reindustrialisation Plan that is being prepared, as well as its interest in decarbonising the economy and promoting renewable gases. At the same time, he highlighted the Valencian food industry’s leadership in terms of both industrial GDP and employment, and also emphasised its intensive need for energy. Crossing both interests, he announced that the Regional Ministry is already working to resume the biogas strategy, which combines the advantages of increasing energy independence, decarbonising the economy and offering competitiveness and providing a solution to the food industry’s waste, so that the projects can become a reality as soon as possible.

José Vicente Castell, head of CSR at Vicky Foods, exemplified in his own company how the recovery of waste, to which they have been devoting their attention for some time, has managed to give the more than 4,000 tonnes of waste produced each year – such as cardboard, plastic, wood and used oils – a second life in 99% of cases. Castell explained that the agri-food industry must understand waste as a resource that, if properly managed, can bring a positive balance to the results of companies and contribute to improving their competitiveness.

Along these lines, he advanced the medium-term intention of Vicky Foods to valorise organic waste, which is now destined for composting, through a model of biogas production by anaerobic digestion, as it will increase the value that can be obtained from them and further reduce the carbon footprint of Vicky Foods, generating renewable gases and organic amendments.

Antonio Illescas, business development manager at Enagás Renovable, stressed that although Spain is among the European countries with the greatest potential for biomethane production, the country only has around ten plants in operation compared to the more than 1,300 operating in Europe. Moreover, Illescas emphasised that the development of biomethane offers an immediate solution to contribute to the decarbonisation of all sectors – industrial, transport and domestic – and it is necessary to take advantage of its benefits throughout the value chain.

Gabriel Butler, CEO of the Valencian energy engineering company Genia Bioenergy, recalled that the modern biomethane plants being developed are not waste storage centres, but a state-of-the-art industry that transforms waste into products such as amendments and organic fertilisers, regenerated water, renewable gases and others, with zero waste, in sealed circuits and through the natural action of bacteria that degrade the by-products and generate renewable gas.

He recalled that the food industry obtains a double benefit from this technology, since as a producer of waste it obtains a sustainable alternative for recovery that provides cost reduction, total traceability and compliance with regulations. On the other hand, as an intensive energy consumer, it benefits from obtaining renewable and local energy that helps to decarbonise its processes. As it also generates fertilisers and organic amendments, it contributes to strengthening the food industry’s link with the primary sector.

For José Güaita, director of the environmental consultancy Heura Gestió Ambiental, most European agri-food companies already have biogas or biomethane plants in their waste management processes, so Spanish companies should integrate them into their processes as soon as possible, This will facilitate the logistics of by-products, reducing costs and allowing them to know exactly the traceability of what was once their waste and has been converted into new products, something that, he says, EU regulations will soon require, especially from industries that transform, process and prepare foodstuffs.

Finally, a reflection was made on the social protest movements that have occurred in some localised areas. The companies in the energy sector expressed their commitment to transparency, and pledged to respond to any concerns in this regard on the part of the municipalities in which they intend to carry out the projects, in order to show them that designs are applied that eliminate odours and avoid any nuisance to the population. On the other hand, they highlighted the advantages that these projects bring to the areas where they are implemented, usually rural areas, in the form of investments, contribution to the municipal coffers through taxes, generation of employment, reactivation of the local economic ecosystem, sustainable solution in accordance with EU regulations for the management of waste from livestock farmers, food industries and city councils, and availability of organic amendments and quality biofertilisers for local agriculture.

As Vicky Foods’ CSR manager stated, waste recovery is an ethically unavoidable and economically profitable task, which generates value for companies and at the same time contributes to reducing their impact on the environment.