Partnership mulls potential use of rice straw for biogas production in Laguna, N. Ecija

The Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) said rice farmers and agricultural officers in Laguna and Nueva Ecija are keen on expanding the utilization of rice straw for bioenergy as an alternative to burning waste straw in fields.

A roundtable discussion held earlier this month identified challenges, opportunities and innovations in implementing local and national policies on rice straw management.

SEARCA said participants included representatives of local government units, farmer associations, environmental groups, research organizations and other rice commodity stakeholders from ten rice-producing municipalities in Laguna and Nueva Ecija.

The discussion focused on the possibility of collecting rice straws for processing in a controlled environment to release methane which can then be captured and used as a clean-burning cooking fuel called biogas.

The group added the discussions were conducted under the Rice Straw Biogas Hub project jointly implemented by British startup Straw Innovations Ltd., Koolmill, Aston University and SEARCA with funding from Innovate UK.

SEARCA also said the project which started in September 2022 aims to generate clean energy from waste rice straw and provide innovative technology services for rice farmers but did not provide a timeline on when outputs of the partnership will be completed.

Craig Jamieson, Straw Innovations founder and chief executive officer, said in a statement that partners in the project are implementing four work packages wherein Straw Innovations handles rice harvesting and bioenergy use for rice drying while Koolmill takes charge of energy efficient milling.

Meanwhile, Aston University conducts the socioeconomic analysis and SEARCA is responsible for the greenhouse gas analysis and enabling environment.

SEARCA said the discussion also focused on the negative effects of burning rice straw, including air pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, health hazards and accidents while also presenting merits of using rice straw instead for bioenergy, fertilizer, mulching, livestock feed or mushroom substrate.