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What is novel fertiliser?

Fertiliser has long been used in agriculture to provide essential nutrients to growing crops, however many of these fertilisers are made from synthetic chemicals, often resulting in nutrient loss, environmental contamination, and soil degradation. 

Novel fertilisers are new-and-improved products that use waste materials and innovative technologies to improve nutrient efficiency and reduce environmental impact.

Why should novel fertiliser be used?

Fertiliser has been a vital input assisting with farming practices for over 8,000 years. Early farmers understood that plants need nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium for growth and productivity. They also realised that agriculture interfered with the natural decomposition cycle of plants, since harvested crops remove these nutrients from the soil. 

Over time, farmers have found ways to restore nutrients to maintain crop yields using manure, compost and nitrogen-fixing plants such as legumes. But with scientific progress and globalisation, the reliance on synthetic fertilisers to meet global food demand has grown, leading to soil and water degradation and exacerbation of global warming. Currently, an alarming 50-80% of added nutrients (nitrogen, phosphorus) via fertilisers are lost to the environment through atmospheric emissions and leaching.

Novel fertilisers offer a comprehensive solution for agriculture, providing sustainability, economic and productivity benefits. By repurposing waste materials and integrating innovative technologies, these fertilisers are designed to release nutrients strategically in response to environmental cues. 

In this way, novel fertilisers can optimise nutrient uptake, enhancing food production and nutritional content in plants. Additional benefits include the ability to sequester carbon in soils, enhance crop resilience against drought and diseases, bolster farm livelihoods and improve economic outcomes in communities. With a reduced reliance on synthetic chemicals and precise nutrient application, novel fertilisers also provide sustainability benefits by cutting greenhouse gas emissions and mitigating nutrient runoff. 

How are novel fertilisers being used?

Novel fertilisers can offer sustainable solutions to conventional farming challenges. As the demand for sustainably sourced food increases, so does growth of the novel fertiliser industry. Sustainable fertiliser solutions developed by companies such as Nitronic, MaxSil, Food2Soil and Bardee are using innovative technology and sustainable practices to address the shortcomings of traditional fertilisers. 

Reduced environmental impacts 

Agritech startups Nitronic and MaxSil have both addressed the harmful environmental impacts of excessive fertiliser use by developing sustainable fertiliser technologies that provide a sustainable, low-cost and low-input solution for farmers. 

Using waste soda-lime (post-consumer) glass, MaxSil has developed a unique plant nutrient rich in amorphous silica, called "PAS". Tested in WA and NSW, this innovation boosts plant growth in highly saline and acidic soils, increasing yield and offering protection against stressors while promoting sustainable agriculture. 

Nitronic addresses the environmental impact of nitrogen fertilisers by pioneering a zero-emission process for fertiliser manufacturing. Their technology simplifies production, eliminates the need for energy-intensive hydrogen, and reduces transportation costs by producing fertilisers closer to end-users. This scalable and modular approach lowers carbon footprints and aligns with renewable energy sources, offering a sustainable and cost-effective solution.

Improved waste management  

With over 8 million tonnes of waste accumulating in Australia’s landfills annually, Food2Soil has developed a system of transforming food and coffee waste into bio-fertiliser. The innovation provides an eco-friendly alternative to synthetic fertilisers, improving poor soil health and plant resilience. By diverting waste from landfills and producing fertiliser locally, Food2Soil mitigates supply chain issues, lowers costs, and supports a circular economy. 

Bardee has built an innovative solution to food waste and nutrient loss with a 24/7 facility that processes food waste into organic fertiliser and insect protein for pet food and animal feed. They are the first to market black soldier fly products in Australia and generate carbon credits with its insect technology. Impressively, every tonne of insect protein produced offsets 50 tonnes of CO2 emissions. Bardee's vision is to expand this sustainable technology to 10,000 cities worldwide, creating a resilient and secure food system. 

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