|The main objectives of the BLOOM project are to raise awareness on the bioeconomy and to establish open and informed dialogues, co-created by European citizens, civil society, bioeconomy innovation networks, local research centres, business and industry stakeholders and various levels of government. BLOOM is creating spaces for the needed debate on preferences and values concerning the bioeconomy; for interaction and exchange of information, knowledge, meaning and aspirations, with the aim of establishing consensus on how a bioeconomy can be realized. Across Europe, five regional hubs have been established to foster public engagement in the bioeconomy and to create a space of exchange and debate. The hubs are focusing on different areas important to the regions.|
The Polish bioeconomy hub, with one of the BLOOM partner institutions – the University of Agriculture in Krakow – has implemented a series of co-creation workshops and outreach activities on bioeconomy in the past months. The BLOOM communications team interviewed Mohammed Hindash, a masters student at University of Agriculture, to learn more about his experience and thoughts on the bioeconomy.
How did you get into contact with the BLOOM project? What kind of activities have you been involved in?
I’m doing my masters at the University of Agriculture in Krakow and my professor, Prof. Malgorzata Pink, is also involved in the BLOOM project. I found out about the project and bioeconomy in one of her classes on the topic of organic agriculture.
In October 2019 I participated in a study trip to Austria organized by BLOOM, where we went to visit an organic, biodynamic wine producer in Pamhagen, Burgenland. On the farm, Michael Andert presented us with his methods of work in the vineyard, including plant protection means based on herbal infusion, ways of selecting plants and herbs so that they form a natural protection for each other, and also his natural fertilization methods. The end result is that he doesn’t need to use any pesticides; he just needs to cut the branches of the vine. The farm is an example of a closed loop, there are no resources wasted, as all the biomass there is useful and its value is understood. For me it was very interesting to see that. The practical experience was very important, it is different to hear about a concept only theoretically than actually seeing it put into practice. This experience has influenced me and made me more aware of natural alternatives that exist. It has also influenced my consumer choices: now whenever I buy wine, I buy organic wine.
I also participated in a workshop on bioplastics organized by BLOOM. During the workshop, different kinds of plastic were explained and showcased. We learned about the different steps to produce bioplastics through a fermentation process. During the workshop, we prepared our own fermenter with bacteria samples. I think workshops like this are really needed, because they make the concepts more understandable and tangible, and it is possible to understand the different steps through experience.
How has BLOOM motivated you to engage more in the bioeconomy?
Thanks to Prof. Malgorzata Pink and my coordinator Prof. Anna Gorcyza, last summer I got the opportunity to do an internship at the Institute of Catalysis and Surface Chemistry at the Polish Academy of Science with Dr. Maciej Guzik. He is doing research on bioplastics production. His research concerns obtaining biopolymers from fermented fatty acids extracted from edible oil. During my internship I had the chance to work on this topic, and I really enjoyed it. Originally, I wanted to focus my master thesis on the topic of bioenergy production from biomass waste, which is another topic in the realm of circular bioeconomy. But when I learned about bioplastics, I decided to dedicate my thesis to this topic. The thesis is evolving around the topic of using green catalysts to separate vegetable oil to make fatty acids, and these fatty acids are later used as a food source for bacteria in a fermentation process, which then produces bioplastics. It is really interesting. I have an energy engineering background – I studied Renewable Energy Engineering in Jordan, and I have always been interested in the question of how to replace fossil resources in processes. My motivation in dedicating my thesis to the topic of bioplastics production is to find out more on how to replace conventional plastics with bioplastics. I would like to contribute to combating the use of fossil-based plastics and making bioplastics a competitive product. I hope that at some point, renewable biomass will be the main source of plastics production.
How has your understanding of bioeconomy evolved? How do you think bioeconomy should be implemented?
I didn’t really know the term circular bioeconomy before. During my studies of Renewable Energy Engineering, I learned a lot about sustainable energy production. It also included aspects of recycling and reducing waste, so it was somehow related, but the concept of circular bioeconomy was not introduced. I didn’t hear about it until I came here and took the course with Professor Malgorzata Pink.
In my opinion, for a circular bioeconomy to be really sustainable, a focus on organic agriculture is important. By limiting the use of pesticides and other chemicals, or even banning certain chemicals, so many negative side effects could be reduced. For this change to happen, it is important to raise awareness on viable alternatives, also in the education system, so that people can see that other ways are possible. We need to educate as much as we can on the advantages of a circular bioeconomy and limit the use of chemicals so much that at some point we won’t need them anymore in the same way as we do now. By then we would have a really sustainable system.
Interview made by Sarah Friederich, GEN Europe