Energy plays a large role in agricultural and food value chains, especially with regard to the processing of food (see Energy within Food and Agricultural Value Chains). Yet, the agricultural and food sector also has a large impact on the emission of Greenhouse Gases. Due to an ever-growing population, and the increasing scarcity of fossil fuels, the world will need more food that is produced with less energy, or alternative non-fossil-fuel based energy sources, such as renewable energy technologies. Like wind, solar, and other renewable energy sources, bioenergy can make a positive impact on our atmosphere by lessening our dependence on climate change-inducing fossil fuels.
This page aims to provide an overview of articles, studies, publications and further links relating to the use of bioenergy, biomass and biogas in the field of agricultural and food industries (the so-called energy and agriculture nexus).
Bioenergy in Powering Agriculture
We will begin by shortly explain the differences between bioenergy, biofuels and biomass, as well as the different roles they can play in agricultural and food industries.
The terms bioenergy, biofuel and biomass are often confused. Bioenergy is all energy derived from biofuels, which are fuels derived from biomass. Biomass is the source of bioenergy. “Biomass is defined as living or recently dead organisms and any byproducts of those organisms, plant or animal. The term is generally understood to exclude coal, oil, and other fossilized remnants of organisms, as well as soils. In the context of biomass energy the term refers to those crops, residues, and other biological materials that can be used as a substitute for fossil fuels in the production of energy and other products.”
Overall information on bioenergy can be obtained from the folliwing pages:
More specific information regarding biomass and biogass can be found here:
The Role of Bioenergy in Agriculture
Biofuels/mass come in liquid, gaseous and solid form and can be used for heating, cooking, processing, cooling, electricity production, and as transport fuels. Most common in the agriculture and energy interlace, is the generation of elecricity from agricultural residues, such as from crops (e.g. staw and husk), from husbandry (e.g. manures and slurries) and from other organic material from excess production or insufficient market (e.g. grass silage). On the consumption side, bioenergy can be used for various agricultural processing activities, such as the cooling of agricultural products. When discussing the role of bioenergy in agriculture, cogeneration has to be mentioned as a relevant technology for the on-site generation of heat (cooling) and electricity and thereby optimizing generation efficiency.
Only a small portion of the harvested and processed agricultural product is actually consumed. Agricultural residues fluctuate between 10 and 90% depending on the type of product. Therefore, the so-called second generation biofuels, using agricultural residues, have become a viable option for overcoming energy poverty and granting acess to energy in developing countries. Worldwide 1.3 billion people continue to live without access to electricity. This is equivalent to 18% of the global population and 22% of those living in developing countries. Nearly 97% of those without access to electricity live in sub-Saharan Africa and developing Asia. However, in rural areas access to energy is crucial for increasing agricultural production, limiting food loss and for ensuring food security. Below are listed some examples of the use of bioenergy and biomass from agricultural residues for the production of energy.
Bioenergy Use for Cooling & Processing
About 30% of food that is consumed in developing countries is perishable, making cold-storage a crucial factor in preventing food losses. Furthermore, the processing of agricultural products is important in increasing the value-added component, thereby increasing income in rural areas. Below are listed some examples of how bioenergy can be used to process and/or chill agricultural commodities.