LEARNING INDUSTRIAL SYMBIOSIS IN EDUCATIONAL EXPERIMENTAL FARMS, A WAY FOR MOVING TOWARDS A CIRCULAR ECONOMY

G. Cervantes

Universidad de La Salle Bajío (MEXICO) / Universitat Politecnica de Catalunya (SPAIN)
In educational experimental farms in Guanajuato state (México), agronomy students of Universidad de la Salle Bajío learn while they develop or collaborate in research projects. These educational experimental farms are located closed to the city of Leon, where the University is placed, and have different characteristics.

Some have experimental crops or cattle, or both:
a) Santa Rosa (SR) (16 Ha) consist of crops, ovine cattle, horses, hen and other small farm animals;
b) In La Estancia (LA) more than a hundred dairy cows are kept,
c) In Los Ramírez (82 Ha) wheat, oats, triticale, sorghum, alfalfa and maize are grown;
d) Silao (2 Ha) consists of pepper crops. Students develop some tasks in the farms by turns, so all of them know how to grow, to take care of the cattle, to collect eggs, to clean, etc. They also develop there their collaboration with research projects or their final grade thesis.

In three of the four farms, an Industrial Symbiosis (IS) project is being developed since 2017. It consists of searching for opportunities for IS development in order to achieve: a better materials use, an improved waste valorization, a set of waste or by-products exchanges among the farms; in essence, moving towards a circular economy.

First a qualitative and quantitative flow diagram of each farm is drawn and calculated. Then, the attention is put into wastes and how are they reused, recycled or disposed. If there are some reused or recycled wastes it is considered as an existing synergy, and the existing synergies diagram is drawn. Finally some proposals are considered in order to close the material cycle in the farms, so some new synergies are proposed and the proposed synergies diagram is also drawn. While this process is undertaken in every farm, the project aims to create a network among all the farms, linked by the use and valorization of their wastes as a raw material for another entity or farm, creating an industrial eco-system, so contributing to the circular economy.

Although the project is not finished still, there are some preliminary results: 9 existing synergies have been figured out in SR and 7 in LA, 23 new synergies have been proposed for SR and 11 for LA. Some of these proposed are: fly-larvae extraction, keratin production, bone meal production, biodigestor, energy production from biogas, composting, vermicomposting, community dining-room. A solution is proposed for 5 out from 7 troubling wastes in SR: Wasted tires, manure (when crops aren’t active), firewood pruning wastes, dead sheep skins, hen manure. And for LA a solution is proposed for the 2 troubling wastes: manure and wastewater from the septic tank. These proposals imply also the creation of 3 new products to sale in SR: vermicompost, bone meal, Keratin; and 3 new products in LA: biogas, bio fertilizer, compost. There is also a stronger relationship with the community and with external entities, as 2 communities and 11 new external entities are involved.

For students, getting involved in these projects imply having responsibilities similar to those of a proper job in the agricultural sector, as they’re in charge of some crops and cattle. They also learn Industrial Symbiosis and circular economy in an easy way, as it is done in practice. They can also develop research projects not only in a farm, but in three of them, as linkages and synergies among farms is encouraged. And they’re able to create new ties with surrounding communities.