PhosFarm - Sustainable phosphorus recovery from agricultural residues through an enzymatic process

Increasing the yield in agriculture through the use of fertilizers is common practice. As an essential nutrient, phosphate is an important component of fertilizers. However, the undefined use of agricultural residues such as liquid manure and fermentation residues as fertilizers causes phosphate to accumulate in the soil and groundwater.

A recovery of phosphorus/phosphate from agricultural residues therefore makes sense from an ecological point of view. PhosFarm as an interdisciplinary European project therefore aims at recovering phosphate in inorganic form from agricultural residues and additionally from waste of the food industry.


In addition to inorganic phosphate, the residues also contain organically bound phosphorus, which cannot easily be recovered. The industrial biotechnology working group uses an enzymatic process to convert the organically bound phosphorus into inorganic phosphate, which was later separated by the nutrient management working group.

In contrast to chemical degradation, the use of enzymes enables hydrolysis under mild conditions in an aqueous solution with good yields. The enzymes used for this purpose were initially selected by us with regard to selectivity, specificity and availability. The enzymatic hydrolysis itself was not only optimized with regard to the reaction parameters, analogously the process development is intensified under process engineering aspects. The focus of interest of both working groups was the establishment of a cost-efficient process for the recovery of inorganic phosphate from organically bound phosphorus from various sources.

Project information

Project title

PhosFarm - Sustainable phosphorus recovery from agricultural residues through an enzymatic process


Project duration

January 2013 – January 2015


Cooperation partners

  • ChiralVision, Leiden (Netherlands)
  • Geltz Umwelt-Technologie GmbH, Mühlacker
  • Purines, Almazan (Spain)
  • Agroenergy, Hohenlohe
  • ASB Grassland, Stuttgart
  • Servimed, Almazan (Spain)
  • VITO, Belgium
  • SLU, Uppsala (Sweden)


We would like to thank the EU for funding the project "PhosFarm" in the seventh framework programme, funding code 605771.

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