PhosFATE, Italy

Something’s fishy about fertilizer

Researchers have created the technology PhosFATE to produce a critical ingredient of organic fertilizer from by-products of the fishing industry.

Most soils in Africa are inherently poor. As a result, Africa is the continent most affected by soil degradation. The primary cause of soil degradation in the region is expansion and intensification of agriculture in efforts to feed its growing population. Organic fertilizer can improve soil health by reducing the rate of nutrient loss through leaching. However, only 2% of the world’s fertilizer is used on Sub-Saharan African soils despite having nearly 20% of the world’s arable land. Phosphorus is an essential plant nutrient and found in organic fertilizers. PhosFATE, a technology developed by a research group of the Italian National Research Council, has found a new way to produce calcium phosphate-based fertilizers from waste fish-bones through an easily scalable and solvent free process. This process can be easily applied by any operator in the fishing and farming sectors. The goal is to reduce the environmental impact of fertilizer and the high cost of the fishery industry’s waste disposal. The process can be carried out in low-income countries as a best practice to convert fishery by-products into high value agricultural and livestock products (calcium phosphate also happens to be an important nutrient supplement in animal feed to promote healthy bones and teeth). Local production of phosphorus-based fertilizers from fish waste can also help to mitigate the dependence of African countries on the import of conventional fertilizers from non-renewable mineral resources.