Lettinga Award 2017 for research on dark-photosynthesis in closing cycles

The winners of the Lettinga Award 2017 and a prize of 10 000 Euro are David Strik, Mathijs van der Zwart & Cees Buisman from Wageningen University with their proposal entitled “Dark photosynthesis: anaerobic biosynthesis of food from wastewater and electricity”.

The winning project was announced at a well-attended closing ceremony of the 15th World Congress on Anaerobic Digestions in Beijng, China. The Lettinga Award 2017 was sponsored by Paques, Biothane and LeAF.

The focus of this year’s call was on using anaerobic technology for closing resource cycles. Judges who evaluated the proposals came from the industry and academia and were guided by the following criteria: scope, innovation and impact. The winning proposal was characterized by the judges as “the one with the most potential”. 

The idea of the project is that by dark photosynthesis, food is produced in a bioreactor in a water and energy efficient way.  Dark photosynthesis is an idea in which photosynthetic micro-organisms (e.g. algae) are grown in the dark while an electrode provides the electron donor and conditions needed for growth. By providing a nutrient rich wastewaters (e.g. urine) high value biomass can be produced which is in potential food of feed grade. The winners hypothesize that they can create conditions which will also allow growth in the dark. With the award they will experimentally validate their ideas and use real (diluted) urine as primary nutrient. In this way they expect to open new doors of research on anaerobic biosynthesis technologies which use wastewater as raw feedstock.

The Lettinga Award was initiated more than a fifteen years ago by Dutch environmental technology suppliers to stimulate the development of anaerobic treatment technology. Traditionally, the award is coupled to IWA Anaerobic Digestion congresses and is presented every two years. More information about previous winners of the Lettinga Award.