Creating visionary circular economies: from waste to energy to growing

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 4th March 2020

Imagine being able to divert all our food waste away from landfill to create clean renewable energy but to also help us grow food sustainably?

Victorian company Enesys has been awarded a grant administered by Sustainability Victoria’s Waste to Energy Infrastructure Fund to develop a business case for a fully sustainable commercial precinct. 
The project will demonstrate how commercial precincts and communities can create their own energy while growing local fresh, nutritious food, and recycling their waste.

Australia has a waste problem. We spend more than $10.1 billion on food that ends up in our bins or as landfill. What if we could divert this waste and use it to create clean energy?  
Extracting energy from organic waste via a process called Anaerobic Digestion is not a new technology. However, unlike burning waste with incineration, Anaerobic Digestion is a natural process where bacteria break down organic matter and produce a gas that is 50–75% methane. This clean gas creates not only clean energy but heat, water, nutrients, and carbon dioxide. 

Waste to Energy to Growing
Enesys founder and engineer, John Norwood, has recognised that all the by-products of energy creation from waste are precisely what a plant needs to thrive: heat, water, nutrients and carbon dioxide. John developed smart packaged systems and technologies that can distribute these by-products into a controlled growing environment, effectively using waste to create energy to facilitate plant growth.
“Growing indoors is becoming increasingly important as populations grow and cities need to feed themselves. But it’s energy-intensive,” John says. “So, directing clean energy into a greenhouse or vertical farm not only solves an energy problem but Enesys systems can also provide heat, chilling, water, nutrients and potentially carbon dioxide to help plants thrive.” 

Integration of Three Industries  
Taking it one step further, John also realised that the Waste, Energy Generation and Growing industries have enormous natural resource synergies and could benefit from sharing resources
When placed together within one precinct, they can offer the optimum potential to share resource connectivity and utilise otherwise wasted products, increase profit, and dramatically reverse the ecological damage that is caused by the same industries acting in isolation.
“We can link multiple industries on the one site. We can create enough energy, water, and nutrients for numerous allied tenants,” John explained. “For example, we can direct heat and carbon dioxide generated from waste to a brewer; we could provide waste chilling to a food processor who requires refrigeration, we can offer excess nutrient-rich water to on-site market gardeners. Similarly, we can use the organic waste by-products of the businesses on-site for our energy requirements; therefore, closing resource loops and developing innovative examples of future sustainable precincts and potential for communities.” 

The Technology
GrowLink ™, developed by Enesys, is a suite of modular process control systems designed to physically link proprietary packaged equipment, large industrial systems, and independent businesses together. This enables a company to continue to operate its core business and activities more profitably and partner in a broader circular economy.

The Business Case will detail the technical requirements and economic benefits of GrowLink and the Precinct Partners and demonstrate how specific businesses can adopt circular economies.

Melbourne Innovation Centre (MIC) will support Enesys to develop a sustainable business model for this exciting project and look at various options to integrate the technology across MIC’s four business hub locations in Melbourne. 

MIC CEO David Williamson says, “this is highly innovative technology and not your typical waste to energy solution. We look forward to working with Enesys and partners to demonstrate the various applications of this technology in a business hub and food ecosystem context.”

Enesys hopes that the business case will attract investment, industry, collaboration and precinct partners to accelerate the construction of the project.