What is a biobased economy?
A biobased economy is also known as biotechonomy or bioeconomy. It refers to economic activities developed from research and scientific work that mainly focuses on biotechnology. Therefore, bioeconomy is the understanding of processes and methods at molecular and genetic levels before applying the acquired knowledge to the creation or improvement of industrial processes. Bioeconomy is a term largely used by regional development agencies, biotechnology companies, and international organizations. A biobased economy is closely associated with the development of the biotechnology industry. Scientists have been able to not only study and understand genetic material but also manipulate it, resulting in technological progress and scientific breakthroughs. An example of a bioeconomic activity is the evolution of the biotechnology industry and how it is applied to the economic sectors of health, agriculture, energy or chemical industries.
The history of bioeconomy
The term bioeconomy, or biobased economy, was first given a description by Rodrigo Martinez and Juan Enriquez at the Genomics Seminar which took place in 1997 during the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) meeting. The Harvard Business School working paper written by both Martinez and Enriquez in 2002 was dubbed “Biotechonomy 1.0: A Rough Map of Biodata Flow.” The paper demonstrated a comprehensive flow of genetic material into and out of the DDBJ, GenBank, and Emblem. The three are the largest public genetic databases in the world. The two scientists explained further the economic repercussion of such flow of biodata will have on the development of biotech startups, creation of patent, and the generation of licensing fees. As of 2005, the Netherlands had established a biobased economy as a crucial issue in the country. The country had started establishing pilot plants, especially in Lelystad, with the already existent centralized organization supporting research in bioeconomy. Former US President Barack Obama announced his intentions of encouraging biological manufacturing methods in 2012 with collaboration with National Bioeconomy Blueprint. During the same year, Belgium constructed the Bio Base Europe Pilot Plant.
The significance of a biobased economy
A bioeconomy uses first, second, and third-generation biomasses which are crops, crop refuge and seaweed or algae respectively. Economically, many processing techniques are used in order to gather the most products out of the biomass. The techniques include Fermentation, Pyrolysis, Torrefaction, and Anaerobic digestion. Fermentation of sugars is used in ethanol production, and pyrolysis is used in the production of pyrolysis oil a type of solidified biogas. Anaerobic digestion is mostly utilized in the production of blogs and torrefaction is used in the production of biomass-coal. Both biogas and biomass-coal are then burnt for the production of energy while ethanol can be used as vehicle fuel among other purposes like in the production of skin care products.
Extracting the most out of biomass
The processing of biomass is conducted according to a particular arrangement in order to get the most out of it. The kind of pattern used is determined by the types and quantities of biomass used. Biorefining is a term used to refer to the process of finding the most suitable pattern. Examples of biomass products include; fuels for transport, food, electricity, heat, chemicals or biophysics, and fine chemicals. There is still a research being carried out with the aim of improving the mass production processes of biomass. The advancement in biotechonomy will be used to manufacture products such as medicines, plastics, antifreeze, and paint from syngas.