- 1 September 2022 to 1 September 2025
- Innovate UK
Rice straw is the third-largest biomass resource in the world, after sugar cane bagasse and maize stover. Unlike rice husks (that cover the grain and are taken to rice mills), rice straw remains in the ﬁeld after harvest and few major uses have been identiﬁed for it, so across Asia 300 million tonnes of it are burned each year as waste. It 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. However, to date, attempts to proﬁtably collect and use it for clean energy have almost all failed. In 2013, Craig Jamieson brought together and led a team of scientists from the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in the Philippines and the UK's Supergen Bioenergy Hub to better understand the barriers to using this vast resource for bioenergy. One of the most comprehensive studies on the topic, it found key barriers were techno-economics of straw collection, straw composition, and lack of business models and supportive policies. On completion of that 3-year, UK-funded project in 2016, Craig founded a UK SME, Straw Innovations Ltd, built a new consortium and secured 'mid-stage' Energy Catalyst co-funding for an industrial pilot plant in the Philippines, via the "Rice Straw to Biogas" (R2B) Project (2017-2020), and the current "Enhanced Rice Straw Biogas Project" (2020-2022). Building seamlessly on this, Straw Innovations now seeks support (2021-2024) to take the system to the ﬁrst commercial scale in a "Rice Straw Biogas Hub" demonstrating proﬁtable applications that will advance the Sustainable Development Goals.
Local farmer interviews showed a preference for productive use of the biogas to increase their incomes. Hence, the hub will offer a suite of clean, affordable energy services for them: efﬁcient grain/straw harvesting; biogas-powered drying and storage, and efﬁcient milling, with support from Koolmill Systems Ltd - another innovative UK SME. There will also be a small trial of biogas-powered "Combined- Heat-and-Pumping" for rice irrigation. This "Rice Straw Biogas Hub" will make Straw Innovations ﬁnancially self-sustaining, whilst enabling rice farmer cooperatives to see a working model that can be applied across the Philippines for income resilience. The hub will be the ﬁrst of its kind globally, retained by Straw Innovations as an R&D and training facility, and a high-proﬁle showcase for its pioneering yet robust technologies packaged in an innovative, scalable business model that removes barriers to entry.