Today, it is not unusual to talk about circular economy in the agri-food industry. Every day we hear voices from more and more sectors affirming the need to move forward in this area to build a cleaner and more efficient industry. Circular economy represents an opportunity for producers to transform.

With this idea in mind, the Agency for Sustainability and Climate Change (ASCC, for its acronym in Spanish) and ASPROCER organized the seminar entitled “Opportunities for a circular economy in the agricultural sector” to facilitate an exchange between small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) that want to transform their processes and start creating circular economies within their means.

This seminar was also the final milestone of the SME Segment of the Pig Industry’s Energy and Environmental Technology Transfer Program implemented by ASCC and ASPROCER over the past two years. The Agency’s executive director, Giovanni Calderón, said that this relevant program is key to boosting a circular economy in Chile. “The assessment has been extremely positive. For the Agency, this is the first experience with analyzing a real possibility for technological change in productive processes of essentially the entire industry. The Agency’s mission is to improve production processes in different sectors to make them more sustainable. There is nothing more concrete than doing so with the pig industry,” said Calderón.

On the other hand, Juan Carlos Domínguez, president of ASPROCER, pointed out that “we are experiencing a time of change. Moving from the paradigm of a linear economy, where generating waste was part of the process, to a circular economy where the industry not only reduces greenhouse gas emissions significantly, but also transforms waste into a product with added value that closes the productive cycle, such as bio-fertilizers made from pig slurry. In our industry, tackling these issues is vital for our development. Our challenge is to increase our production while being aware of and respectful with the environment.”

The seminar opened with words from the Undersecretary of Agriculture, Alfonso Vargas, who presented the Ministry of Agriculture’s vision for circular economy in agriculture. He emphasized that programs like this are “what we need to increasingly do to get a circular economy to work, because in Chile it is just now emerging. Therefore, this is the path to reducing food waste and fulfilling our 2030 agenda.”

The highlight of the day was the presentation by Joop Colsen, president of the Dutch company Colsen International, an expert in sustainable technologies for the circular economy. He shared his vision of this issue and explained how Europe is moving forward. “Europe’s experience is quite new. They have been working on circular economy projects for the past 10 years, not without a number of failures. But much progress has been made, particularly with the widespread growth of composting,” explained the expert.

Lastly, the seminar closed with a presentation by Rodrigo Ortega, professor at the Universidad Técnica Federico Santa María and director of Agriservice, an entity specializing in soil fertility, plant nutrition and precision agriculture. This was developed as the starting point of a second project aiming for SMEs to implement soil fertilization with organic matter produced at the plants themselves. This initiative is one of the results of the Energy and Environmental Technology Transfer Program for the SME segment of the pig industry and is also supported by ASCC and ASPROCER.

Rodrigo Castañón, general manager of ASPROCER commented that “this project, which we hope to complete in May, seeks to promote the use of slurry for fertilization and it also provides continuity to the work we have been developing with the SME sector over the last two years.”