SUSFERT welcomes new SME to project

SUSFERT is pleased to announce its new partner AgroBiogel to the Consortium. AgroBiogel has joined SUSFERT to participate in the remaining field trial seasons of the project with the intention of boosting the effectiveness and efficiency of the fertilisers and components being developed within the Consortium.

SUSFERT is taking the concept of AgroBiogel’s existing hydrogels and aims to create a new family of wood-based gels called “Nutrigels”. The Nutrigels will be used with SUSFERT products with the intention of improving fertiliser nutrient storage, release, efficiency and water delivery with less leaching and pollution. The specific objective of the Nutrigels will be demonstrated in green house and field trials.

Vital SME supported for circular economy solutions

Project Manager, Mikael Muegge, said this development could help create circular economy business models that contribute to the growth of the bio-based economy, food security, climate change solutions, and Zero Waste Sustainable Development Goals by re-using lignin that is normally burnt to provide cheap energy.

“Additionally, a vital agricultural, rural-based biotechnology SME is being supported by boosting regional employment within the sector,” he said.

“The aim is to introduce the AgroBiogel Nutrigels and use them in combination with the SUSFERT probiotics and micro-organisms, struvite and fertilisers,” Muegge said at the last Consortium Meeting in Catania.

Nutrigels will be included in fertiliser development

SUSFERT will incorporate probiotic micro-organisms and agricultural fertilisers into the Nutrigels and will work on the upscale of the production. The properties of the Nutrigels containing several selected fertilisers will be further optimised based on feed-back from the application.

Muegge added that with the effects of climate change it was important to create products that could deliver the effective and efficient release of water and nutrients at an affordable price.

The introduction of AgroBiogel’s Nutrigels in selected SUSFERT fertilisers could have significant impacts for the European and global agricultural industry. They could play a role in the prevention of fertiliser loss through efficient nutrient capture and storage, essentially saving the farmer money; help store water in periods of scant rainfall; and, due to their wood-based properties, act as a carbon sink because of their ability to store CO2.

AgroBiogel primarily will be involved in Work Package 4 of the project which involves fertiliser development. Several new Key Exploitable Results would be generated within SUSFERT with an envisaged Technology Readiness Level of 7-8 and beyond that include:

Nutrigels containing probiotics

Nutrigels containing NPK

Nutrigels containing BioAgenasol

AgroBiogel is a recently founded BOKU spin-off SME that was the brainchild of Gibson Nyanhongo who launched the company in 2021. The technology used in the company’s hydrogels was co-invented with SUSFERT partner, Georg Gübitz, Sabrina Bischof and Andreas Ortner from the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, BOKU’s Institute of Environmental Biotechnology.

Watch the AgroBiogel hydrogel VIDEO.

Meet the AgroBiogel team

AgroBiogel (AGB) (www. ), located in Tulln an der Donau in Austria, is a BOKU spin-off producing novel, multifunctional organic/lignin-based super water absorbent hydrogels. Hydrogels (also known as super-absorbents) are polymeric materials which are able to absorb and store large amounts of water. ABG specializes in producing hydrogels for agricultural applications aimed at improving the soil water holding capacity, organic matter and fertility. The water holding property of the hydrogels enables plants to survive increasing, erratic rainfall patterns and periods of drought, thereby saving water by reducing the need for irrigation. When applied to the soil the hydrogels act as small water reservoirs right around the roots of the plants.

Prof. Dr Gibson S. Nyanhongo

Inventor of AgroBiogel and author of more than 90 peer-reviewed publications, Professor Nyanhongo is responsible for product-related R&D activities. Due to his vast experience in biopolymer synthesis, he leads the planning and synthesis of Nutrigels on SUSFERT. He has extensive experience in managing and overseeing many national and international projects.

Tobias Keplinger

Tobias Keplinger studied Chemistry at Johannes Kepler University in Linz and obtained his PhD from ETH Zurich. From 2016 – 2020, he was an ETH Research Group Leader with a focus on the chemical functionalization and nanoscale analysis of lignocellulosic materials. In 2020, he commenced as Head of Research and Innovation of Austrocel Hallein GmbH, one of the leading pulp and bioenergy producers in Austria. He joined AgroBiogel as Chief Operating Officer in November, 2022.

Nikolina Burger Soldo

Nikolina holds a Master’s degree in Agricultural Sciences from the University of Josip Juraj Strossmayer University of Osijek, Faculty of Agrobiotechnical Sciences Osijek, in Croatia. She worked with InFarm — Indoor Urban Farming GmbH as an Associate Field Operations Manager. She joined AgroBiogel in August, 2022 as Technical Marketing Manager, additionally working on the modernization of agriculture through the implementation of innovative technologies.

Christoph Ertl

Christoph holds a Master’s degree in Agricultural Sciences from BOKU, Vienna, and a diploma for Innovation Management from the University of Continuing Education in Krems. His contribution to the agricultural sector spans more than 20 years working for various international companies in various functions including Business Development, Product Management & Sales & Marketing. He joined AgroBiogel in May, 2022 as the Head of Technical Marketing and Sales.