Green Fertilizers from Crustacean Shell Waste

EPA Grant Number: SU839300
Title: Green Fertilizers from Crustacean Shell Waste
Investigators: Wong, Hsi-Wu
Institution: University of Massachusetts - Lowell
EPA Project Officer: Page, Angela
Phase: I
Project Period: February 1, 2018 through January 31, 2019
Project Amount: $15,000
RFA: P3 Awards: A National Student Design Competition for Sustainability Focusing on People, Prosperity and the Planet (2017) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: P3 Awards , Sustainability , P3 Challenge Area - Materials & Chemicals


Crustacean shell waste presents a critical economic and environmental challenge for the local seafood processing community due to the cost and carbon footprint associated with waste transportation for landfill. On the other hand, petroleum-derived chemical fertilizers are an environmental concern due to the potential nitrate contamination in groundwater and the large energy consumption of ammonia production. In this project, we will develop a hydrothermal process to solve both problems at the same time: convert crustacean shell waste into high-value, nitrogen-rich biochar as a fertilizer for agricultural applications. Parametric effects on biochar yields and quality will be studied. The performance of the resultant biochar as a fertilizer will be evaluated by the growth of tomato plants. Energy and economic analysis will be conducted to ensure the energy efficiency and the economic feasibility of the innovation


The objective of this project is to develop and demonstrate a hydrothermal reactor system that produces renewable fertilizers from seafood wastes, particularly crustacean shells waste that are widely available in the New England area. Research will be conducted to determine the technical and economic feasibility of the proposed innovation.

Expected Results:

The direct expected outputs of the proposed project will be a tested hydrothermal process to convert crustacean shell waste into green fertilizers, along with the optimal conditions for operating such process. The outcomes of the project will lead to significant societal (people), economic (prosperity), and environmental (planet) impacts. Our project aims to simultaneously: (1) improve the lives and advance the economy of local seafood processing and agricultural communities by introducing a new revenue stream based on shell-derived fertilizers and (2) preserve the environment by reducing the amount of waste landfilled and by lowering the energy consumption and carbon footprint associated with the production of petroleum-based fertilizers.

Supplemental Keywords:

Seafood Waste; Waste Upcycling; Hydrothermal Treatment; Green Chemistry; Energy Efficiency;Food-Energy-Water Nexus