The visit focused on the efforts made by the pork industry to reduce its carbon footprint, specifically AASA and its biodigesters, which produce enough renewable energy for the feed factory boiler, reducing the need for oil by 100%.

Sandra Saavedra, the Presidential Delegate for the province of Melipilla visited AASA’s production farm and energy facilities in the town of Mallarauco (Melipilla) alongside the Regional Ministerial Secretaries of Agriculture, Nathalie Joignant; Energy, Iván Morán; and Economy, Cristián Rodríguez, to learn about Agrícola AASA’s ecofriendly waste management -which obtains renewable energy from pig slurry- with the aim of having other local companies replicate the model.

Saavedra explained that they wanted to learn more about the company’s experience in circular economy with the installation of a biodigester to make processes more sustainable. “We visited ASSA’s biodigester, which uses a circular production model. I believe this is a key form of production, especially in the current context, which calls for greater care for the environment and a circular economy, all in a scenario with increasing prices of fuels and fertilizers. This project provides a fairly comprehensive solution to these problems.” She also explained that they want to “disseminate, showcase, and implement new public-private joint initiatives to transfer this technology and innovation to other producers.”

Currently, 80% of the slurry generated every day in the pig industry goes through advanced treatment systems, such as activated sludge plants, biodigesters, or vermifilters. They also allow for water to be reused for cleaning the barns, reducing the sector’s annual use of fresh water by 26%. The solid waste from these processes, both in the poultry and pork industry, is stabilized and used to improve agricultural soil. This has a positive impact as it allows for the recovery of macro and micronutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, among other components. Around 5,000 hectares of crops are fertilized in Chile each year.

The Regional Secretary of Energy, Iván Morán, added that the company’s technological innovation to improve its process contributes to a more sustainable production. “We are pleased to learn about this experience, which reuses pig production waste to produce biomass from which they obtain biogas to produce electricity for self-consumption and also for the grid. The key is that the model is ecological, using waste to produce a new good -in this case, electricity- and it should be replicated. Today’s goal is to learn more about how it works, its benefits, and also to promote it.”

Currently, 25% of pig production is treated using biodigesters generating the equivalent of 7.6 megawatts of renewable energy per day. Most part of this energy is used in the companies’ production process, for heating farrowing pens or feed pelleting, among other uses. Additionally, 1 MW is injected into the electricity grid via the Central Interconnected System (SIC, in Spanish) to power approximately 1,100 households.

The Regional Secretary of the Economy, Cristián Rodríguez, added that “it is good to see how the incorporation of technology into the production process has managed to produce a circular economy, using technology that is within reach with the support of the State, managing to create a beneficial process, which also considers the benefits for the community.” He concluded that these type of projects generate “positive environmental externalities while creating wealth and employment in the area.”

Alejandro Gebauer, Head of AASA’s Management and Projects Department explained that the company has four biodigesters that produce biogas, which allows to produce electricity and also bio-fertilizer to improve soils, benefiting neighboring farmers. “It has been a long, hard job. It has been a positive experience and after years of work, we have managed to produce energy and provide biogas digestate to neighboring farms, producing positive externalities. We obtained funding from the Chilean Energy Efficiency Agency that gave us the initial boost, and the company’s management also committed to invest and push this project forward,” he explains.

Finally, Daniela Álvarez, ChileCarne’s Sustainability Manager highlighted the need to shine a light on successful circular economy experiences in the pork industry. “We are very pleased to show Chilean officials what the industry has been doing for many years, so we can work together to replicate these types of projects and on the tasks we still need to address. It is very important for us to showcase what we are doing in sustainability, incorporating new technologies that allow for sustainable pork production, a circular production that makes the most of every resource, using less water, and using energy more efficiently,” she concluded.

AASA Energía was created in 2016 and obtained the Quantification seal granted by the Huella Chile (Chile Footprint) program for its efforts to quantity and/or reduce its carbon footprint thanks to the reduction of odor and greenhouse gas emissions in some of the oldest slurry lagoons, producing an important benefit for neighboring communities.