The world’s human population is projected to reach 8.5 billion in 2030, 9.7 billion in 2050 and 10.4 billion in 2100 (UN, 2022). This increase in population, combined with climate change, urbanization, digitalization, natural resource overuse, agricultural land use practices, loss of biodiversity, soil degradation, carbon emissions, etc., poses major threats for humanity and has led to a worsening of global food insecurity. The livestock has been an integral part of mankind for ensuring nutritional as well as livelihood security. To overcome global challenges that mankind is facing with respect to the future of the planet, bio-economy and bio-economic innovations have become an important area of interest for policy stakeholders and the scientific community, as it seems to be the solution to all current concerning challenges. Undoubtedly livestock sector is a fundamental part of the modern global economy and in order to ensure its resilience to changes in consumer expectations, cost of production and environmental sustainability, the sector must shift to a circular economy model. India’s Bio-Economy in 2021 registered 14.1% growth and it is optimistically projected that livestock sector (bio-industry/ bio-fuels/ etc) has a potential in shaping India becoming “Energy Independent” by 2047, under Hon’ble Prime Minister’s vision of Atma Nirbhar Bharat. Hence, livestock based ‘Circular bio-economy’ principles can offer many opportunities to become more resource efficient.
While dealing with livestock production systems, number of solid and liquid waste by-products is generated during various processes from ‘farm to fork’ operations. As per the World Bank, globally 2.07 billion tonnes of waste is generated and is predicted to reach 3.4 billion tons by 2050. Further, 44% of this waste consisted of greens and food. These products need to be managed efficiently and efforts need to be made to harvest the benefits for sustainable growth and development. It's the responsibility of every nation and every citizen to minimize the release of emissions through reduced carbon footprints. To protect the environment from the adverse effect of global challenges, green technology (based on principles of reduce, reuse and recycle approaches) which is eco-friendly, offers a potential means to have positive impact on environment. Such technologies promotes less utilization of energy and helps to minimize greenhouse gas emissions and further slow down global warming, thereby saving natural resources and reducing ozone harming products.
Livestock waste can be recycled by latest scientific technologies to combat rising energy prices, sustainable agricultural and reduce environmental threats and ultimately increasing farmer’s income. Livestock is the vital element of agricultural circular bio-economy, transforming non-edible biomass into high-quality food and recycling large proportions of nutrients to agro-ecological system via farmyard manure. This non-edible biomass makes up the majority of the total agricultural biomass and comes from grassland, co-products of food-producing plants (e.g. straw), intercrops in the course of crop rotation and from by-products of the industrial processing. There are undoubtedly many sustainable ways to mitigate negative effects of livestock system, including the use of agro-ecological approaches, like, manure based bio-economic innovations, adoption of principles of organic farming, modern technology and increased circularity.
The aim of bio-economic practices includes, minimizing the use of primary natural resources (such as water and energy) throughout cultivation and animal production, minimizing polluting activities and unsustainable practices (such as the use of synthetic fertilizers and unsustainable use of chemicals) and recycling, transformation and reuse of livestock sector waste. To meet the ever growing demand for energy and fuel in an equitable and sustainable way without depleting finite natural resources, both solid and liquid wastes of abattoir industry can finds its application in production of biogas, biodiesel, bio-briquetting, bio-electricity and bio-hydrogen generation. It is estimated that slaughter wastes produce more biogas than simple manure and the slurry obtained from the biogas plant could be converted into organic manure which can be used for agriculture purposes to increase soil fertility. Production of second generation biodiesel, from animal fats, can offer a potential solution for global energy requirements. Efficient utilization of rumen ingesta and dung to form bio-briquettes, which are used in boilers of meatpacking plants for steam generation, for cooking in rendering plants, etc.
Effective and efficient conversion of liquid waste into value added products like bio-plastics, which is not only eco-friendly but can be recycled and is biocompatible. The slaughter wastewater finds its application for generation of bioelectricity and bio-hydrogen production. Recent studies showed micro-algae based treatment of waste water treatment offers a sustainable solution for generating valuable products, viz., biomass and pigments for human food and animal feed, nutraceuticals, biofuels, polyunsaturated fatty acids, carotenoids, phycobiliproteins and fertilizers. Additionally, application of Panchagavya or panchakavyam in Cowpathy has demonstrated beneficial uses in Ayurveda. Use of livestock waste has wide application in field of textile manufacturing. Manure fiber are being used to produce products like plant growth medium (like peat moss), seed starter pots, fertilizer garden sculptures, paper and building materials. All such approaches are incredibly useful in converting waste into remarkably high-quality, value-added products and also reducing environmental pollution, thereby turning environmental liability to a commodity. Hence, bio-economic innovations use renewable biological resources to produce not only food but also materials and energy, making resource-efficiency and the transition to a low-carbon economy possible.
The bio-economy may be dominated by plant-based processes, but the role of animals in the bio-economy is also notable. As earlier discussed increasing global population and consequently, food demand, the livestock sector represents a key actor to address the challenge of global food and nutrition security. Animal production can contribute efficiently to the Bio-economy for a sustainable food-chain, providing multiple benefits and is one of the most demanding sectors in terms of resource use and emission intensities. Smart livestock farming, ensuring reduced carbon foot-print and animal welfare, transitioning to digital animal monitoring, efficient waste to wealth management techniques, use of innovative technologies, precision farming techniques and increased awareness among all stake-holders, have the potential to decrease the impact of livestock farming on our natural resources.
Promotion and implementation of various prestigious initiatives by Administration of Union Territory of Jammu & Kashmir, like, waste to wealth management (agri-waste management) component under Animal Husbandry Infrastructure Development Fund (AHIDF-CSS), Gobardhan initiatives, Establishment of poultry waste rendering unit, dairy effluent/ dairy sewage treatment plant, biogas plant, cow dung dewatering system, cow dung drying/ log making machine and vermi-compost units, etc., under Integrated Dairy Development Scheme (IDDS) promises a way towards harnessing benefits of circular bio-economy, thereby providing economic and resource benefits to farmers and households. Such initiatives will support biodegradable waste recovery and conversion of waste into resources, reduction of GHG emission, reduction in import of crude oil, give boost to entrepreneurship and promote organic farming.
Waste to wealth is a lucrative option for the eco-friendly and cost-effective management of waste. Achievement of sustainable development goals is impossible without addressing waste management as every goal is directly or indirectly linked with waste management. The concept of a ‘circular bio-economy’ focuses on the production of animal based commodities with minimal external inputs, closing nutrient loops, and reducing negative impacts on the environment in the form of wastes and emissions. Understanding the circularity of livestock based systems has the potential to identify opportunities to apply precision technologies to enhance recycling and smart utilization of livestock waste throughout the production system. There is an immediate need for One Health Initiative to work together using science-based information to ensure optimal use of natural resources, nutritional adequacy, improved human and animal health and the environmental sustainability. A Sustainable and Circular Bio-economy can play a principle role in promoting growth, while safeguarding human, animal and environmental health and restoring ecosystems.
(Author is a Veterinarian. He can be mailed at: firstname.lastname@example.org)