UK – Aston University researchers are spearheading an initiative to mitigate the environmental impact of rice straw processing in India and the Philippines. 

This endeavor marks the inception of the Renewable, Inclusive Carbon-negative Energy (RICE) project, a pioneering collaboration funded by the Innovate UK Energy Catalyst program. The project aims to revolutionize renewable energy prospects for rice farmers.

Partnering with UK-based company Straw Innovations and Indian enterprise Takachar, Aston University is poised to extend its influence beyond borders. 

The collaboration, which builds upon the university’s prior work with Straw Innovations in the Philippines, seeks to expand its reach across the Asian continent, addressing the pressing issue of rice straw waste management.

Rice straw, a ubiquitous byproduct of rice cultivation, presents a formidable challenge in Asia, where an estimated 300 million tonnes are annually incinerated post-harvest. This practice contributes to emissions and air pollutants, exacerbates respiratory diseases, and hastens climate change.

As the second and eighth largest rice producers globally, India and the Philippines jointly generate 130 million tonnes of rice and straw each year. The magnitude of this challenge necessitates innovative solutions.

Central to the RICE project is the collaboration with Takachar, an Indian enterprise acclaimed for developing small-scale, cost-effective equipment capable of converting agricultural waste into high-value bioproducts such as fertilizers, chemicals, and biofuels. 

The project envisions developing a scaled-up version of Takachar’s equipment tailored for integration into rice mills. This would facilitate the on-site conversion of rice straw into value-added products. 

This innovative approach curtails emissions and harnesses waste heat to facilitate rice drying, reducing reliance on conventional fuels.

Aston University researchers will be pivotal in evaluating the project’s sustainability, quantifying greenhouse gas emissions savings, and assessing the socio-economic impact on farming communities. 

Dr. Mirjam Röder, a sustainability expert at Aston University’s Energy & Bioproducts Research Institute (EBRI), emphasized the project’s aim for carbon negativity, striving to sequester more carbon dioxide than emitted.

This initiative builds upon previous collaborations and underscores the commitment of all stakeholders towards achieving UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Craig Jamieson of Straw Innovations expressed enthusiasm for the continued partnership, highlighting the strategic significance of integrating Takachar’s expertise in biochar production.

Our combined solutions can significantly move the needle in reducing crop residue collection costs and biochar production costs for carbon removal,” Vidyut Mohan, founder of Takachar, remarked.

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