4BIOLIVE identify and extract high value compounds and lignocellulosic fractions with humic-like effects from olive wastes (mill wastewater, mill solid waste and pomaces) as biostimulants, biopolymers and biofertilizers for improved plant absorption, controlled slow release and biogas production

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Period of Implementation

Jun 1, 2021 - Nov 30, 2024
Total Budget

EUR 522,000.00



The specific objectives (O1-O4) of the proposal are: O1: Identification of high value ingredients in olive mill wastes and extraction for biostimulants and biofertilizers. Olive mill wastewater (OMWW), olive mill solid wastes (OMSW) and pomaces (POM), selected as the main residues of olive-oil chain production, will be characterized to optimize their further reuse. High-value compounds will be identified and extracted, taking into account their physico-chemical properties. O2: Use of lignocellulosic fraction as biostimulant and biofertilizer. Water soluble Lignin (WSL) obtained from olive mill solid wastes and pomaces will be processed to obtain a bioactive substance with humic-like effects for stimulating plant development and resistance to stress. Solid lignin will be purified, and lignin nanoparticles (LN) will be prepared and used as carriers for bioactive compounds (LN-PC) obtained in O1 to realize an efficient molecular vehicle to improve plant absorption. Lignin will also be used to produce biopolymeric compounds (BPC) with enhanced controlled-release capacities, to allocate bioactive compounds and nutrients, with the goal of obtaining slow-release materials to be used as biofertilizers and eventually as biostimulants. O3: Valorisation of residual biomass for biogas and soil organic fertilizer production. The residual biomass after the extraction of high-value bioproducts (O1 and O2) will be characterized and investigated as potential feedstock for anaerobic digestion and co-digestion, in order to produce biogas. In addition, the anaerobic digestion effluent (digestate) will be analysed to evaluate the potential benefits of its agricultural reuse as organic fertilizer and soil conditioner. O4: Evaluation of social, economic and environmental impacts in the Mediterranean area. Potential socioeconomic and environmental impacts of the innovative bioproducts obtained will be evaluated by developing a methodology for the assessment of acceptability, feasibility and accessibility of the developed processes and bioproducts in comparison with current strategies and methods.


The extraction of bioactive substances and nutrients from olive mill wastes to produce biostimulants and biofertilizers, the valorisation of the lignocellulosic fraction to obtain biopolymers, and the recovery of bioenergy from residual biomass, are identified as new agroecological farming solutions to enhance the agroecosystem resilience under a circular economy perspective. To this end, some measurable indicators will be used: nutrients recovery, increased resistance of plants to stress and soil fertility. Laboratory, greenhouse and field-scale responses to the adoption of these innovative practices will allow for monitoring their effects in terms of the environmental, but also economic and social sustainability. Hence, a multidisciplinary approach promoting the interaction of partners with different expertise will be followed.

Problems and Needs Analysis

Intensive agriculture in the Mediterranean area impacts and disturbs natural ecosystems, due to high inputs of water, fertilizers and agrochemicals. The main consequence is the unsustainable use of natural resources, with detrimental effects on soil fertility and biodiversity, and degradation of the environment as a result of pollutants release. More sustainable approaches are urgently required to find new and more efficient uses of natural resources and enhance the agroecosystem resilience. The development and application of innovative farming systems will ensure productivity, stability, resistance and resilience, avoiding disturbances on the long-term. Indeed, the efficient use of natural resources and reduction of chemical inputs both protect and improve the agroecosystem resilience to environmental disturbances related also to climate change. In this context, the olive oil industry, as one of the leading rural activities in Mediterranean countries with significant social and economic implications, impacts on the agroecosystem. Within the olive-oil chain production, more than 30 million m3 of the olive mill wastes are generated in Mediterranean countries in a relatively short time period, representing several environmental risks due to the high concentration of polluting substances. The development of feasible strategies to recover these agricultural wastes is of primary importance, both for improving the use of natural resources, and for facing the environmental threads linked to the disposal of these wastes. The joint production of olive oil and new bio-based products for agriculture and other sectors is a strategic way for improving the sustainability of the farming systems based on this agricultural cultivation.

Intervention Strategy(ies)

4BIOLIVE is developed in 4 phases, corresponding to: 1) selection and characterisation of mill waste, identification of high-value ingredients and extraction of biostimulants and biofertilizers; 2) processing of raw materials and lignocellulosic fractions to obtain biostimulants, biofertilizers and carriers for controlled release of bioactive compounds, and valorisation of residual biomass after extraction of bioproducts for biogas production; 3) trials to test the effectiveness of biostimulants on maize plants and, together with biofertilizers, on fruit plants; 4) adoption of environmentally, socially and economically sustainable production agroecosystems. 4BIOLIVE, through an integrated approach, combines skills, knowledge and background from the agricultural sector (development of new biofertilizers and biostimulants to improve soil quality and protect crops from abiotic stresses and dangerous pathogens that can cause damage and economic losses in nurseries, greenhouses and open fields), materials science (through processing and characterisation of biobased materials from natural sources to be used in the production of engineered nanocarriers for product treatment in the agricultural sector) and chemistry (through optimisation of separation and functionalisation procedures aimed at adsorbing, binding and encapsulating active ingredients on/into selected nanostructured lignin to improve their availability, stability and promote their controlled release).

Impact Pathway

The project, through the valorisation and innovative use of by-products of the olive oil chain, aims to promote the eco-sustainable transition of the current management of agricultural systems, to reduce the dependence on non-renewable resources by moving from a linear to a circular approach, to minimise the risk of failure associated with yield losses due to inappropriate farming systems, environmental stresses, by improving: This approach will have positive effects on the resilience, stability and robustness of agro-ecosystems. The biostimulants and biofertilizers developed in 4BIOLIVE, and enhanced by the use of lignin nanoparticles and biopolymers, will be able to improve soil fertility, in terms of organic matter and nutrients, through a more effective release of beneficial substances into the soil, The use of innovative biostimulation and biofertilisation materials in 4BIOLIVE, enhanced by lignin nanoparticles and biopolymers, will increase the nutritional value of crops, avoiding the negative impact of environmental stresses on their content. Water management will benefit from the ability of innovative bioproducts to stimulate beneficial physiological responses in plants, improving their water use efficiency. These beneficial effects will increase the adaptive capacity and resilience of agricultural systems, thus reducing their vulnerability.