Agriculture and energy: anaerobic digestion of agricultural waste

What if the 150 million tons of organic residue, generated each year by farming activities, were recovered directly from the farm and its surroundings? This is one of the challenges for the EMAA (Methane Energy and Nitrogen Autonomy) departmental plan that aims to install 1,500 anaerobic digesters on farms by 2020 In accordance with the plan, Irstea is continuing its work on optimizing processes and developing an economical, regional and environmental approach for the field.

Anaerobic digestion: developing the field in France

Agriculture has a role to play in achieving the target of 32% renewable energy in the energy mix by 2030 with waste from farms representing a source of biogas. This is a special report on research towards developing this field.


Anaerobic digestion: optimizing the anaerobic digestion process

For the past 30 years, Irstea has worked to optimize anaerobic digestion procedures. What are the latest innovations?


Anaerobic digestion: measuring the environmental impact of the field

What is the best way of implementing these activities so they have the least environmental impact possible?


See also

Optimizing energy consumption on farms

Fuel consumption display terminal © Irstea / D. Boffety

While technology embedded in machinery or installed directly on plots of land (or in the air!) can help farmers communicate with their fields, it can also be used to allow machines to send information to farmers.

Agrivoltaics - managing water and producing sustainable energy.

At a time when France is experiencing a net decrease in agricultural land area (51% of French land in 2012, source MEDDE 2014, compared to 70% as late as 1950), Irstea is looking at optimizing irrigation and growing plants under solar panels.

The agrivoltaic system set up at Irstea Montpellier in partnership with Inra and Sun'R combines ground-level crops with solar panels fixed at a height of 4.5m above ground using an open supporting wooden structure for mechanized farming. Not only has this system provided answers to current energy challenges, it has also allowed Irstea to focus specifically on plot shading for over 2 years.

Shading can change plants' water requirements and increase the productivity of crops growing under the panels, even in conditions of water stress. We have observed 20-30% water savings for plant irrigation as the solar panels keep plants shaded for part of the day.