A European funded project called Biowill came to a conclusion in 2024. It looked at the possibility of creating an integrated zero waste biorefinery using willow biomass. Humans have utilised the multifunctionality of the genus Salix for millennia, but this project focussed on the potential for utilising the versatility of willow on a commercial scale by producing pharmaceuticals (in particular extractives such as salicins) for skin creams, bio packaging for food containers, natural fertilser and energy from methane production. Currently most biomass crops are simply sold as feedstocks for bioenergy. This is an efficient use of land with 1 unit of energy in leading to 20 units of energy out. However, the Biowill model would allow this to be increased still further, and the project is looking at ways that farmers might be able to compartmentalise and valorise different parts of the biomass and therefore get much more out of the crop. Ultimately it is hoped that this approach will increase land resource efficiency, increase farmer revenue, and enable the production of low carbon, zero waste products.
The Biowill project was supported by EU Interreg funding and delivered by ten project partners (including three universities) from across four countries (Belgium, Ireland, France and UK). Partners included Biomass Connect partners AFBI and Crops for Energy.
The Biowill team have recently published a paper in the journal Industrial Crops and Products:
As a neat way of rounding up the project, all the partners provided interviews for several informative YouTube clips. Watch them here: