Bioeconomy Science Center
Forschung und Kooperation für nachhaltige Bioökonomie
Bioeconomy Science Center
Forschung und Kooperation für nachhaltige Bioökonomie

Efficient phosphate recovery from agro waste streams by enzyme, strain, and process engineering


Phosphate stewardship and ultimate recycling is one of the great challenges of humankind. We propose a new value chain to recover phosphate from plant waste material (here: press cake from rape or sunflower seeds) and to convert it to polyphosphates of industrial value. The approach is based on naturally occurring enzymes that release phosphate which ist bound in phytate, a natural plant phosphate reservoir, and on microbes that effectively collect the soluble phosphate to store it as polyphosphate. These microbial super collectors will be harvested and the synthesized polyphosphate recovered. Thereby, the currently implemented value chain of phosphate rock mining (mainly in North Africa), purification from heavy metals like cadmium and uranium, production of phosphoric acid, chemical synthesis of polyphosphates, and, after use, phosphate disposal into waste water, rivers and finally into the oceans will be extended and in the long run disrupted.

Impact on bioeconomy

No fertilizers can be produced without phosphate and the concentrate natural phosphate deposits are rapidly depleted. Phosphate stewardship is therefore of primary importance for a bioeconomy in general to ensure a sufficient food production for feeding the growing world population. The P-ENG project addresses two key topics in terms of phosphate stewardship: 1) Avoiding the use of phosphate rock by recovery of phosphate from plant phytate and 2) reducing over-fertilization due to lowering the phosphate content of agro waste streams.

Expected results/project products

The P-ENG project will develop a novel value chain from agro waste (here: press cake) to technical polyphosphates. The technological contributions are: 1) The sustainable phytase production process as proof of concept that phytase production can be increased by reducing the metabolic burden of glycosylation and increasing thermal resistance of phytase through tailored glycosylation. 2) Selective phosphate removal using microbes. The integrated process design with enzyme, strain, and process engineering represents a general and innovative concept. The project will also address the economic viability of the P-ENG technology, its ecological impact as well as market entry barriers and the associated competitiveness of the novel approach.

Participating Core Groups


Prof. Dr. Lars M. Blank
Lehrstuhl für Angewandte Mikrobiologie
Institut für Angewandte Mikrobiologie - iAMB
RTWH Aachen University
52074 Aachen
Phone: +49 241 80 - 26600
Fax: +49 241 80 - 622180


Prof. Dr. Ulrich Schwaneberg, Lehrstuhl für Biotechnologie, RWTH Aachen University

Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Wiechert, Prof. Dr. Marco Oldiges, Institut für Bio- und Geowissenschaften: Biotechnologie - IBG-1, Forschungszentrum Jülich GmbH

Prof. Dr. Stefanie Bröring, Professur für Technooologie- und Innovationsmanagement im Agribusiness, Institut für Lebensmittel- und Ressourcenökonomik (ILR), Universität Bonn

Funding period
01.01.2015 – 31.12.2016


The total budget of P-ENG is € 773.720. P-ENG is part of the NRW-Strategieprojekt BioSC and thus funded by the Ministry of Innovation, Science and Research of the German State of North Rhine-Westphalia.