On the European level, there are 50.000 tonnes of hops produced on a surface of 26.500 ha. Slovenia produces near to 2.800 tonnes on 1.590 ha annually and is currently ranked as the 3rd EU’s largest hop producer, and the 5th in the world. Hop agricultural sector is the largest exporter in agricultural sector of Slovenia, therefore it also has a great meaning for Slovenia’s international visibility. Hop training systems in Europe are still based on wire or polypropylene (PP) twine trellises, usually pinched for about 6-7 meters above the ground on a regular arrangement of wooden or concretepoles.Hop biomass after harvest yields up to 15 tons/ha (fresh matter) per season, but because PP twine mixed with hop’s plants cannot be properly composted, recycled or landfilled. IHPS has already been trying to find a technical solutions and alternatives for PP twines. LIFE BioTHOP project will assure hop waste upcycling.
The object of this project is to replace the PP twine on the hop fields with the bio twine made of natural material polylactic acid (PLA), that can be degraded by composting to simple monomers (H20, CO2 and biomass). Hop plant biomass after harvest can be used as main ingredient of composting and afterwards used as a natural fertiliser or material to produce biodegradable products (bio-composites, planting pots, packaging trays). Therefore, the agro-waste can be drastically reduced and the economy of the sold agro-waste to bioplastic producers can be increased. The demo region, which is Lower Savinja valley in Slovenia) will be an example of good practice for all hop-growing regions not only in EU but also across the world. The project will also benefit to socio-economic value as it can improve green or so-called eco-tourism. The goal is to completely upcycle the hop waste and to improve energetic efficiency for 25 % by using the biopolymeric composites. Considering the emission of the greenhouse gasses there should be 6-fold reduction compared to conventional plastic production.
BIOTHOP Consortium forms a transnational partnership, comprised of 7 partners from 5 EU Member States: Slovenia, Portugal, Spain, Germany and Czech Republic. Slovenian Institute of Hop Research and Brewing, acting as Coordinating Beneficiary, runs its principal functions on research, advisory services and green managing procurements for sustainable hop-growing industry. Portuguese industrial corporation Lankhorst Euronete Group is in charge for the development of home compostable PLA twine intended specifically for hop-growing sector. German SME - Zelfo Technology will develop a technology for reengineering of hop waste fibers to be usable in fiber pulp moulding applications and extrusion compounding transforming processes. TRIDAS, pulp molding company from Czech Republic will take the lead of the piloting action on hop-waste fiber transformation into pulp moulded packaging products, Spanish SME - Tecnopackaging is the leader of the production of hop fiber PLA compounds for injection piloting and replication on extrusion blow moulding for producing films from BioTHOP materials. Tecnopackaging’s prepared materials will be used by Slovenian Tool and Die Development Centre - TECOS to perform an action on injection moulding of plating pots for horticulture sector, in particular for hop seedlings cultivated by IHPS. The 3rd Slovenian partner is Development Agency Savinja that unites 6 municipalities of Lower Savinja Valley, demo region of the project and the largest hop-growing region of Slovenia and will stimulate the active hop-growers involvement, disseminate, exploit and transfer the project results regionally and transnationally.
The first meeting of the Consortium was on 17th of July 2019 in Slovenian town Žalec. The meeting was followed by visiting the Ecomuseum of hopgrowing and visiting the world’s attraction- Beer Fountain.
The LIFE programme is the EU’s funding instrument for the environment and climate action created in 1992. The current funding period 2014-2020 has a budget of €3.4 billion .The EU LIFE Programme provides funding opportunities for the support of Environment, Nature Conservation and Climate Action projects throughout the EU. The maximum EU co-financing rates for projects are 55%, 60% or 75%, depending on the project topic.