SEARCA collaborates with UK partners on making clean energy from waste rice straw

  • By Lichelle Carlos
  • 16 September 2022, Friday

CEO of Straw Innovations Ltd. Mr. Craig Jamieson (middle) welcomed and toured the SEARCA team headed by director Dr. Glenn Gregorio (sixth to the left) with Mr. Glenn N. Baticados (sixth from the right), Program Head of the Emerging Innovation for Growth Department at the Straw Innovation facility in Pila, Laguna, PhilippinesCEO of Straw Innovations Ltd. Mr. Craig Jamieson (middle) welcomed and toured the SEARCA team headed by director Dr. Glenn Gregorio (sixth to the left) with Mr. Glenn N. Baticados (sixth from the right), Program Head of the Emerging Innovation for Growth Department at the Straw Innovation facility in Pila, Laguna, Philippines

The Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) has embarked on a three-year project to make clean energy accessible to remote, under-served rural communities. Entitled Rice Straw Biogas Hub, the project will generate biogas as clean energy from waste rice straw and provide an innovative package of technology services for rice farmers.

Funded by Innovate UK under the United Kingdom Research and Innovation organization,  the Rice Straw Biogas Hub is gearing for its first commercial scale in Laguna, Philippines, starting September 2022. The lead proponent is UK-registered startup Straw Innovations in collaboration with SEARCA, the UK SME Koolmill and UK academic partner, Aston University.

The Rice Straw Biogas Hub demonstrates efficient removal of waste rice straw from farmers’ fields and conversion into eco-friendly, commercially viable products, focusing on biogas.

Straw Innovations is piloting the holistic mechanism of using waste rice straw as biofuel for drying rice grains as demonstrated by Mr. Jamieson.Straw Innovations is piloting the holistic mechanism of using waste rice straw as biofuel for drying rice grains as demonstrated by Mr. Jamieson.

The Director and Founder of Straw Innovations, Mr. Craig Jamieson, explains that the hub can prevent burning of 300 million tonnes of rice straw as waste across Asia each year, and has “exciting potential to bring clean energy access to the 150 million small-scale rice farmers who need it to process their crops and generate new income opportunities.”

SEARCA Director Dr. Glenn B. Gregorio said “the hub will engage farmers in a working model for income resilience. SEARCA will help measure and establish the impact of the Rice Straw Biogas Hub to farmer incomes, equality of opportunity, food security and decarbonization benefits.  SEARCA will also be involved in formulating recommendations for policymakers.”

With the package of rice technologies that the hub will introduce -- from efficient grain/straw harvesting; biogas-powered drying and storage; to efficient milling -- it is envisioned that farmers could triple incomes while protecting the environment. Through an affordable, value-adding commercial business model, farmers will avoid buying and maintaining expensive equipment.

Straw Innovations will lead the efforts of scaling up the rice harvesting system that it has developed for over five years and establishing a rice drying service through combustion of biogas from rice straw. The project team will also test a biogas engine for combined-heat-and-pumping.

Koolmill will showcase its energy-efficient rice milling technology, packaged in a pay-per-use business model. Aston University will conduct surveys in Laguna and major rice-growing areas across the Philippines to assess attitudes towards and socio-economic impacts of the Rice Straw Biogas Hub and proposed business models.

SEARCA, through the Emerging Innovation for Growth Department, will be involved in greenhouse gas analyses quantifying the emissions saved throughout the system. Results will be used as a basis for potential carbon-trading revenue in the future. SEARCA will also lead the work package on creating an enabling environment. This involves technical training in anaerobic digestion for stakeholders, and analyzing policies, gaps and market failures to help governments develop supportive policies across SE Asia.

“We can do more towards accelerating transformation through agricultural innovation when we work collaboratively. SEARCA promotes the Rice Straw Biogas Hub as a clear example of innovation and successful academe-industry-government interconnectivity,” concluded Dr. Gregorio.