Since there are no currently active contests, we have switched Climate CoLab to read-only mode.
Learn more at
Skip navigation
Share via:


Farmers process their (surplus) biomass (incl. manure), for example into biogas, that is partly used for own energy needs or sold = income.



The idea is to collect examples of and ideas for small scale, on-farm processing of a wide range of biomass into (intermediate) products that can either be used on-farm or sold to a market. Example: biogas produced from different farm residues or waste (incl. manure) for energy (heat, electricity, propulsion) and/or commercialisation (local/regional heat & power; industrial feedstock). By this, farmers reduce their own CO2 footprint (less fossil energy and fertilisers), reduce their cash (out-)flow; and generate some cash-income. Down-stream and service activities bring jobs and value added in rural areas.

Challenges lie in the on-farm and village level work flow organisation; small scale (farm or village level) processing technology (e.g. gasification and bioreactors exist in suitable small scale but are too complicated or expensive); and the development and management of a market organisation that can handle many volatile small suppliers serving a smaller number of users.

The project will tackle the economic fragility of (small) farms and the related emigration from rural to urban areas. At the same time it will reduce agricultural and forest waste and, by using different types of biomass and the possibility to generate energy or intermediated products and therefore income around the year, it would promote land use systems with higher biodiversity with better soil and crop management that could sequester CO2. By replacing fossil farm-input (energy, fertilizer) it would reduce the the CO2 footprint of farming.  


Is this proposal for a practice or a project?


What actions do you propose?

1.) Collection of existing good-practice examples of small-scale, on-farm/village pre-processing of biomass for own/local use and selling surplus of the (intermediate) product to a market. Source: Climate CoLab participants.

2.) Analysis of collected examples with regard to conditions for success and lessons learned and impact on the CO2 footprint at farm, local, and regional level.

3.) Publication of these results as guidance for advisory systems, planners, and decision makers.

4.) Development of modular dynamic systems simulation models covering farm, village and regional level, calibrated with theoretical data and (preferably) data from the collected good practice examples.

5.) Make the model available to real-life stakeholders (farmers, foresters, advisors, regional planners and decision makers) for trying out their ideas of how to organise their farm, village, region and value chains and to understand how they can influence the development in the desired direction.

4.) Constantly improve the model through implementing existing or hypothetical technologies (incl. internet of things, AI, digital agriculture/forestry; small scale gasification and bioreactors with high tolerance to multiple biomass feedstocks, ... ) and organisational formats (cooperatives, "stock market" for the (intermediate) products, automatic signalling of available products from intelligent sensors, ....) to assess their potential impact and (financial) requirements.

5.) Make the dynamic systems simulation model freely available on the internet on the one hand to allow farmers, planners, and decision makers to work with it and at the same time to invite developers to add new modules and improve the model collectively.

6.) Over time the model should develop into a virtual bio-economy, like a computer simulation game, that "players" can use to test their ideas for developing a socio-economic ecosystem that is sustainable in all three dimensions: environmentally, economical, and social and that is adapted to local and regional situations. The complexity increases with the number of players and developers.

7.) Beyond the entertaining and educational effect the system should initiate real live actions by farmers, entrepreneurs, majors, planners, politicians, to implement ideas that have been proven useful in the virtual world.

Who will take these actions?

Whoever is interested in contributing to this project.

Where will these actions be taken?


Examples for successful and less successful implementation of the on-farm multiple use of biomass idea should come from all parts of the world and all possible situations.

Analysis of these examples could take place in any interested universities and research institutions of the regions the examples come from or from anywhere else. It would be good if those interested institutions form a network and agree on standards for their analysis to ensure comparability across regions and situations. The publication of results should be on the internet and freely available and in a way that the information is accessible and useable for all potential stakeholders. 

Development of the systems model and its modules can happen anywhere but it would be good if modellers receive real data to calibrate their models and form a network to exchange ideas and tools. Evaluation of the models should include interaction with real life stakeholders to ensure that the output is useable in the respective situations.



In addition, specify the country or countries where these actions will be taken.

No country selected

Country 2

No country selected

Country 3

No country selected

Country 4

No country selected

Country 5

No country selected


What impact will these actions have on greenhouse gas emissions and/or adapting to climate change?

At this stage I haven't looked for or carried out myself concrete assessments of the mitigation and adaptation potential.


In qualitative terms any primary production system that replaces fossil-based inputs by biomass-based inputs will reduce the net CO2 emissions to some extent. There is also the potential that better soil and crop management increases the sequestration capacity of the sector.


In qualitative terms the proposed approach would increase the resilience of the rural system by increasing the biodiversity of the crop and forest management as well as the product diversity of the primary producers, making them less dependent of the market volatility. Ideally it makes sustainable behaviour attractive. 

What are other key benefits?

By improving the situation in rural areas, the project would contribute to reducing the migration pressure from rural to urban areas.


What are the proposal’s projected costs?

The economic cost of the project can be low if examples are provided voluntarily and systems modelling is done by individuals and groups interested in the topic. Publication of examples and results of the analysis on the internet is cheap or free of charge.

If organisations start to contribute, their cost depend on their degree of engagement. Universities could, for example, use the material coming from the examples as basis for master or phd projects.

If farmers, villages, or regions start implementing the system there could be negative economic impact on the fossil-based value chains as well as on traditional material flows if farmers carry out some (pre-)processing on-farm.

The main challenge of this project is its dependence on voluntary input, ranging from the provision of examples, over their analysis, to the development of the systems model (system) and its use for testing real life ideas; as well as for the dissemination of the examples, the results of the analysis, the systems model (system).


About the author(s)

Related Proposals