Improved nutrient and energy management through anaerob digestion (INEMAD)


Farm specialisation co-evolutes with an increasing reliance on external inputs and increasing environmental damage. Modern specialised crop production systems rely on external inputs for pest management and fertilisation, whilst specialised livestock systems rely on imports of feed and face dramatic costs and problems in waste disposal. Current evolution in agricultural policies might stimulate the specialisation tendency to continue and increase some of the related problems. Growing concerns for the environment and for resource depletion (at least) question the specialisation tendency. Recycling energy and materials through re-connecting crop and livestock production becomes indispensable for attaining agricultural sustainability.

Nutrient recycling has become important for several reasons. 

  • agriculture faces the conflict of scarcity and overuse of phosphorus and potassium,
  • nitrogen and phosphorus leaks lead to eutrophication. Overuse of nitrogen also results in acidification and greenhouse gas emissions.
  • improved cycling of all nutrients increases the availability and nutrient use efficiency by plants, which is important for improved plant production. This increased production will become crucial in the era of the bio-based economy.  

 Project objectives 

 INEMAD has a distinct focus on techniques and strategies for optimised nutrient recovery, with additional attention for opportunities for renewable energy production and carbon sequestration. 

The first set of objectives refer to the technological developments for nutrient recycling:

  • transform waste to fertilizers,
  • minimize greenhouse gas effect and
  • reconnect livestock and crop production.  

The second set of objectives refer to the socio-economic framework to reach the optimal implementation:  

  • analysis of legal and organisational challenges,
  • prediction of economic viability and 
  • collaboration models across Europe. 

 Strategic impact


1. Alleviating environmental problems in crop and livestock production

Optimising the use of energy and nutrients through innovative forms of mixed farming will result in a number of beneficial environmental effects. INEMAD will alleviate environmental problems by minimising the reliance on external inputs and stimulating the role of agriculture in greenhouse gas mitigation. INEMAD will make a distinct difference by reducing the required amount of external chemical fertilizer. The INEMAD proposal has been designed to align with relevant EU environmental policies.



2. Minimazing the dependency on external inputs

INEMAD will help to reduce the dependency of farms on external inputs, by evaluating farming systems and optimising energy and nutrient cycling. As a practical example, an in depth analysis will be conducted on processes for manure and biogas digestate treatment for optimised nutrient management, directly impacting that sector. The expected impact will be optimised by making use of a participative approach to optimising energy and nutrient cycling, which will improve the expected results through the targeted identification of farm constraints. A reduced requirement of external fertilizers has various advantages. 


3. Greenhouse gas mitigation role of agriculture

In this project, an in-depth analysis will be conducted on processes for agro-based conversion of biomass into renewable energy. INEMAD focuses to a large extent on biogas applications. Biogas is an important part of the bioenergy mix and therefore directly impacts greenhouse gas mitigation strategies (replacing fossil fuel sources with renewable energy sources). The focus on bio-methanisation and manure processing has four advantages in terms of greenhouse gas mitigation:

  • the digestate can replace chemical fertilizers that require huge amount of fossil energy for their production,
  •  there is lignin rich rest flow that goes back to the soil and contributes to the increase in soil carbon sequestration,
  • the higher share of nutrients available in inorganic form, compared to untreated manure where nutrients are available in organic form, increases the uptake by plants and increases the production. The higher production increases CO2 uptake from the atmosphere. The higher uptake of nitrogen reduces the formation of nitrous gas which has a very high greenhouse potential.
  • the controlled bio-methanisation prevents spontaneous production of methane from the manure which is released in the atmosphere and contributes to greenhouse gas emission. Methane produced from bio-methanisation can replace the use of fossil natural gas.


4. Improving the EU environmental policy

The INEMAD project has been designed to align with a number of relevant EU environmental policy positions. The project aims to achieve its impacts in these EU priority areas. The following policy documents were taken into account: 

  • Water Framework Directive,
  • Soil Thematic Strategy and proposed Soil Framework Directive,
  • Renewable Energy Directive,
  • Environmental Technologies Action Plan,
  • Sustainable Consumption and Production and Sustainable Industrial Policy Action Plan,


5. Innovative institutional arrangements in rural areas

The use of participatory approaches will maximise the impact of the innovative institutional arrangements studied and discovered during INEMAD. Focus group meetings and interviews will assess the role of social capital and institutional factors that influence the collaboration between farms. The participatory approaches will also streamline the development of new concepts with high implementation potential based on various technologies (e.g. process, biobased, or separation technologies). Institutional arrangement impacts are also expected on the intersection of animal and plant production, by identifying concepts of collaboration and defining their preconditions.


6. Guide for agro-environment support schemes 

In general, INEMAD will contribute to understanding a number of desirable models on mixed farming and energy and nutrient cycling. These models can have an important impact in the field as they can guide European, national, and regional policy makers to design suitable future agro-environment support schemes.

Specifically, INEMAD will contribute to:

  • identifying alternative valorisation strategies of crops and by-products accepted by farmers, policy makers, and other  stakeholders. This will be done by using participative approach techniques to compare different processing technologies and to evaluate farming systems,
  • supporting the promotion of more sustainable farming systems by analysing the effect of different farm management options on agricultural economics and on their ecological impacts,
  • exploring creative alternative inter-farm arrangements by evaluating farming systems and exchanging modelling insights,
  • providing information to policy makers about taxes or subsidies to obtain more sustainable nutrient cycling, by combining policy analysis modelling techniques, agronomy, and environmental sciences.


7. SME benefit of project results 

SMEs will practically benefit from the following INEMAD project results: 

  • knowledge on fertiliser potential of end products,
  •  knowledge on upgrading biodigestate to a balanced fertiliser,
  •  the relationship between organic fertilizer and plant growth,
  • the potential of biogas plants in an open area and the opportunities when there is a land surplus and a nutrient demand,


8. Necessity of an European approach

Athough farming evolution differ between countries and regions, problems with very similar grounds occur throughout the EU. Currently, a lot of efforts have been done already to improve nutrient cycling in farming systems. Often, research projects offer small but important pieces to the solution to improved nutrient cycling. However, in order to have a real impact, these efforts must be integrated in a holistic approach, evaluated in a sustainability context and appropriately communicated. If the efforts are not combined or not sufficiently tested or communicated, the impact is too limited.


Downloadable document from the kick-off meeting:


WP1 : Standardized assessment and stakeholder involvment methodology, leader UGENT

WP2 : Nutrient management in farming systems, leader SOLTUB, Link

WP3 : Nutrient management in processing systems, leader DLO,

WP4 : Exchange of nutrients between farms and processing systems, leader IZES, 

WP5 : Institutional framework, leader FOI, 

WP6: Dissemination, leader UGENT


Project partners


University Gent


Jeroen Buysee, coordinator

Valerie Vandermeulen





Zoltán Hajdu



Agricultural University Plovdiv


Anna Aladjadjiyan



Stichting Dients Landbouwkundig Onderzoek


John Verhoeven



Eigen Vermogen Van Het Instituut Voor Landbouw En Visserijonderzoek


Fleur Marchand


DLV Belgium CVBA


Filip Raymaekers



Kopenhavns Universitet


Brian Jacobsen





Fred van Rooyen



Nationalna Asociacia Po Biomasa


Anna Aladjadjiyan



B.T.G Biomass Technology Group Bv.


Evert Leijenhorst



Department de L’aisne


Fabrice Marcovecchio



Sisacko-Moslavacka Zypanija


Tatjana Puskaric



BVBA Innova Energy


Ivan Tolpe




Claudia Ziegler




INEMAD poster Link

INEMAD flyer Link

Fragment from the report on manure processing and biogas production Link

Fragment from the report on digestate production Link

The N gross balance for EU 27 (Hungary with a negative balance) Link

Short presenatation of the biogas and digestate utilisation in Germany Link , Denmark  Link,  The Netherlands  Link


The INEMAD newsletters (2013-2014) are available at                        

The 5th INEMAD newsletter Link


Project meeting in Croatia Link

Project meeting in Saarbrücken (Germany), March 2013 Link

Project meeting in Lelystad (The Netherlands), October 2013 Link

Project meeting in Copenhagen (Denmark), March 2014 Link

Project meeting in Budapest (Hungary), October 2014 Link

Project meeting in Laon ( France), March 2015 Link

Project meeting in Plovdiv ( Bulgaria), September 2015 Link

Project final meeting Ghent (Belgium), March 2016 Link 

INEMAD and GR3 joint 2016 March project meeting posters Link


INEMAD farms: Jászapáti 2000 Mezőgazdasági Zrt., Béke Szövetkezet, Hajdúböszőrmény, Lajta Hanság Zrt., Ostffyasszonyfai Petőfi MGSZ., Biharnagybajomi Dózsa Agrár Zrt. Link

Related FP7 projects:



Further information on


Further information on









Other biogas related RTD projects with Hungarian partners




The reasearch leading to these results has received funding from the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013) under grant agreement n° 289712.