Workshop 1: Circular bioeconomy systems

Speakers’ Abstracts and Biographies

Tuesday, March 19, 2024

Gal Hochman, Ph.D.Professor at the Department of Agricultural, Food, and Resource Economics at Rutgers University, U.S.A.

Title: “Climate-smart technologies and food security in the context of a circular bioeconomy.”

Abstract: The world faces several challenges, including an increasing demand for food, climate change, and the need to preserve biodiversity. To address these challenges, we can adopt a climate-smart circular bioeconomy (CSCB) strategic approach, which uses modern life science techniques and renewable resources to reduce agricultural and natural resource emissions. Implementing the CSCB approach can also improve food security while preserving biodiversity. To shift towards a circular system, we need to emphasize the importance of research and human capacity. We must also use benefit-cost analysis to guide decision-making and consider the social costs of externalities in the decision-making process.

Biography: Gal Hochman is a Professor at the Department of Agricultural, Food, and Resource Economics at Rutgers University. Dr. Hochman received his Ph.D. in Economics at Columbia University in 2004. Although, while coming out of his Ph.D., he focused on international trade agreements and crony capitalism, his stay at UC Berkeley introduced him to energy and agricultural biotechnology; his current focus includes issues related to development, energy, the environment, technology, and trade. Dr. Hochman is also keen on understanding the importance of policy in facilitating the transition to sustainable and resilient supply chains and an improved understanding of aquaculture technologies and their role in future food supply chains. Dr. Hochman presented his work at numerous conferences, has 62 peered-review publications, some in top journals, and has 121 publications. He is currently the Council On Agricultural Food & Resource Economics board chair.


Alejandro Lopez Moriena, Chief of Sustainability, Adecoagro, Argentina.

Title: “A Sustainable Dairy Production Model in the Humid Pampas.”

Abstract: We have developed a sustainable production model in Humid Pampas (Argentina) where we produce food and renewable energy, while we recycle lot of water, and everything in a most efficient way. The feed for the cows is produced in the same farm, under Regenerative practices such as No Till and cover crops, among others. Cow comfort is the key in this model, and with it we can double cow productivity, when comparing to traditional models. Not only milk doubles, but manure as well, so we have introduced digesters in the region in order to process the latter. With the digesters we are able to produce biogas, and with it we can generate renewable electricity for the local community. In addition to this, all the material that goes out from the digesters, turns into biofertilizers that goes back to the fields where we grow the feed for the cows. On top of all these processes, we are certifying the digesters in order to get Carbon Credits as they dramatically reduced GHG emissions of the operation.

Biography: Alejandro works in Adecoagro company since its inception and reports directly to the CEO of the company. His responsibilities include the definition of ESG corporate policy and strategy. Additionally, he has a key role in developing the most efficient and sustainable technologies for the company. Alejandro has spoken in numerous Ag conferences, with special focus on Sustainability and Technology matters, such as The World Food Prize (Iowa, US), Sustainable Food Lab (London, UK), World Agri Tech Summit (San Francisco, US and Sao Paulo, Brazil), Global AgInvesting (New York, US) and Financial Times Climate Capital conference, among others. Alejandro is Argentine and Italian citizen, and Master in Agronomy by the University of Buenos Aires. Adecoagro is one of the leading companies in the production of food and renewable energy in South America. Adecoagro has operations in Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay, its main activities include the production of sugar, ethanol, bioelectricity, grains, oilseeds, peanut, milled rice and dairy products among others. Adecoagro is listed in NYSE by AGRO.

Keith Kline, Distinguished Scientist, Environmental Sciences & Climate Change Science Institute, Oak Ridge National Lab, U.S.A.

Title: “An inclusive, climate-smart, circular economy: challenges and opportunities.

Abstract: The process to develop a set of International Standards for Net Zero and a Circular Economy (ISO IWA 42 and ISO Technical Committee 323) will be reviewed along with corresponding principles, definitions, and performance metrics. Initiatives supported by US State Department (Net Zero World) and the Department of Energy Bioenergy Technology Office (Biofuture Platform Initiative under the Clean Energy Ministerial) will also be highlighted to underscore the role of collaborative research and development, and methods to engage global stakeholders. A key message is that good natural resource management – of land, soil, and water by local communities – is essential to enable a more resilient and sustainable, circular economy.

Biography: Keith assesses renewable energy options to identify approaches that improve land management and livelihoods. Keith spent 24 years in developing nations supporting community forest management, biodiversity conservation, and Sustainable Development Goals. At Oak Ridge since 2008, Keith has authored 90 publications on resource management and development. Keith currently supports DOE on the Biofuture Clean Energy Ministerial Initiative (sustainability), the Net Zero World Initiative (Just Transitions), ISO Technical Committee 323 (Circular Economy), and International Research Networks on the nexus of Food-Energy-Water.


Claudio Dunan, Ph.D., President of the National Seed Institute, Argentina.

Title: “Accelerating the development of circular bioeconomy systems in Argentina.”

Abstract: The development of circular bioeconomy systems is considered a key strategy to reduce extreme poverty, increase economic empowerment, and reduce the environmental impact of human activities. These are global goals and very much needed in Argentina. The Public R&D  in Argentina has been developing knowledge as the basis of a sound bioeconomy. Several university programs are available to educate on the benefits and opportunities of the bioeconomy. The private sector has been implementing financial schemes and business models to create biobased companies and start-ups. Farmers area eager to diversify their product basket by adding bioenergy, biofuels, biomaterials, new crops, and carbon credits. The recently elected government has created the Secretary of Bioeconomy to support the current public and private efforts with policies and regulations that place the bioeconomy as a key development strategy for the country.

Biography: Claudio Dunan is the President of the National Seed Institute of Argentina. He is a founding partner of Bioceres Group. Head of Strategic Initiatives for the company from 2012-2023. Prior to that, he held the position of General Manager in three multinational agroinput companies: Zeneca (today Syngenta), Makhteshim-Agan (today Adama), and Síntesis Química (Punjaab Chemichala).  He has a bachelor’s degree in Agricultural Engineer from the University of Buenos Aires and obtain his Ph.D in Weed Ecology at Colorado State University (1993) and a Doctorate in Business Administration at the University of CEMA (2021). Between 1990 and 1996 he was a professor and researcher at Colorado State University, University of Padova Italy, and at Louisiana State University.


Joe Sagues, Ph.D., Principal Investigator of the Biocarbon Utilization & Sequestration (BUS) Lab in the Biological & Agricultural Engineering Department, North Carolina State University.

Title: “Bio-based battery materials for circular energy storage systems.”

Abstract: The demand for electrochemical energy storage is increasing rapidly due to a combination of decreasing costs in renewable electricity, governmental policies promoting electrification, and a desire by the public to decrease CO2 emissions. Lithium-ion batteries are the leading form of electrochemical energy storage for electric vehicles and the electrical grid. Lithium-ion cell anodes are mostly made of graphite, which is derived from geographically constrained, non-renewable resources using energy-intensive and highly polluting processes. Thus, there is a desire to innovate technologies that utilize abundant, affordable, and renewable carbonaceous materials for the sustainable production of graphite anodes under relatively mild process conditions. A novel catalytic graphitization method shows great promise at producing low-cost, battery-grade anode material from sustainable biomass resources. Further, the opportunity exists for carbon-negative bio-batteries that remove atmospheric CO2 over their lifetime.

Biography: Dr. Sagues is the Principal Investigator of the Biocarbon Utilization & Sequestration (BUS) Lab in the Biological & Agricultural Engineering Department at NC State University. He has experience in research, development, and demonstration of innovative bioprocessing technologies at corporations, startup companies. universities, and national labs. The BUS Lab takes an integrated approach to innovate technologies that utilize and sequester biogenic carbon. The aim of his work is to leverage the bioeconomy for carbon drawdown. He is bridging fundamental advances in synthetic biology and chemical catalysis with bioprocess engineering to innovate carbon-negative bioproducts that range from feed, chemicals, fuels, and materials. When developing a new technology, the BUS Lab takes into account the entire technology-to-market pathway, starting with fundamental research and ending with commercialization. Such a comprehensive approach increases the odds of commercial success by eliminating developmental hurdles and pitfalls at an early stage.


Jeffery K. Tomberlin, Ph.D., Professor, Texas A&M University, U.S.A.

Title: “Diversifying Agriculture, Protecting the Environment, Stabilizing Economies: The Story of the Black Soldier Fly.”

Abstract: The ability to digest organic wastes and produce insect biomass for use as feed clearly is a disruptor of the cyclic economy concept globally. An insect, that was once viewed as a pest, is now seen as a channel through which economies can diversify, environments can be protected, and concerns with feeding the global human population are lessened. The purpose of this presentation is to provide background on the value of this insect as part of the agro-economic sector, recent advancements with deciphering its biology, and possible pathways leading to enhanced production and greater value to the agro-industrial sector globally.

Biography: Dr. Jeffery K. Tomberlin is a Professor, AgriLife Research Fellow, & Presidential Impact Fellow in the Department of Entomology at Texas A&M University and Fellow of the Entomological Society of America. He is the principal investigator of the Forensic Laboratory for Investigative Entomological Sciences (F.L.I.E.S.) Facility ( at Texas A&M University, and he is the Director of the National Science Foundation Center for Environmental Sustainability through Insect Farming. Research in the F.L.I.E.S. Facility examines species interactions on ephemeral resources such as vertebrate carrion, decomposing plant material and animal wastes in order to better understand the mechanisms regulating arthropod behavior as related to arrival, colonization and succession patterns. The goals of his program are numerous; however, a major focus of his research is waste management in confined animal facilities as well as concerns with food waste being placed in landfills and how the black soldier fly can be used to recycle such materials. His research efforts for the past 27 years have been developing methods for the production of alternate protein sources for use as livestock, poultry and aquaculture feed from these resources. Predominately, these efforts have been accomplished through his research with the black soldier fly. Since arriving at Texas A&M University in 2002, 19 Ph.D. and 21 M.S. students have completed their degrees under his supervision. To date, he has edited 8 books, published 28 book chapters, and +260 research articles which have more than 18,500+ citations. Through his efforts, he was recently recognized as a Fellow by the Entomological Society of America. Dr. Tomberlin welcomes those that are interested in collaborating or gaining experience in black soldier fly as a sustainable system to produce protein or other areas of his research to visit the F.L.I.E.S. Facility. Dr. Tomberlin has worked with companies throughout the world including, but not limited to Malaysia, China, and Australia. He has also given presentations (e.g., TEDx) on research throughout the world as well (e.g., 35 countries to date).


Marcelo Torres, President, AAPRESID, Argentina.

Title: “Shaping learning communities: the path of innovation in networks

Abstract: The Argentine No Till Farmers Association (Aapresid) is a non governmental and non profit organization founded in 1989, in response to the high rate of soil erosion caused by conventional tillage. Nowadays, Aapresid encompasses a network of farmers and agronomists who share a common interest in the conservation of soil, their main resource, through the adoption and promotion of an agricultural paradigm based on no till farming, a paradigm of care, regeneration and continuous improvement. Aapresid has 1800 members producing and consulting on over 11 million hectares in Argentina, spread across all over the country. Aapresid organizes and delivers on several activities: Annual National Congress (almost 6000 attendees in 2023); development of field trials, field days and seminars for technological exchange between domestic and foreign farmers; promotion of joint research and extension activities with universities, agricultural research centers and private companies. Aapresid plays a fundamental role in the evolution and spread of regenerative agriculture, in Argentina and worldwide. Aapresid is protagonist on the conformation of collaborative innovation networks and is determined to share this successful case, sharing experiences and promoting the exchange of knowledge to contribute to the advancement of responsible and transformative agricultural practices at an international level. This presentation will highlight the value of sustainable agricultural production systems, the development of local farmers’ networks that promote innovation and the formation of learning societies. The presentation will also focus on Aapresid’s current challenge, which is to extend the collaborative networks of innovation beyond the limits of the farms, generating links with the different actors of the agri-food chain and the consumer.

Biography: Agricultural Engineer, graduated from the National University of Buenos Aires with training in Crop Production from the National University of Mar del Plata. President of the Argentine Association of No-Till Farming (Aapresid). Where he has previously served as Vice President (2021-2023), Prospective Program Director (2018-2021), Chacras Program Director (2016-2018). He also serves as Director of Ceres Tolvas Group, member of the Ceres Tolvas Group Technology Innovation Department and representative of Ceres Tolvas in the Agtiva innovation ecosystem. Board member of Innventure – Investment Fund integrated by farmers and agricultural entrepreneurs that invests in innovative companies with Agtech development.


Charles Cao, Ph.D., University of Tennessee, U.S.A.

Title: “Integrating Edge AI and Blockchain in Precision Dairy Farming: Towards Sustainable and Smart Agricultural Practices”

Abstract: In this presentation, we describe our efforts applying AI to precision agriculture, integrating Edge AI and blockchain technology to enhance sustainability and efficiency. We focus on deploying advanced sensor technologies for real-time disease detection and farm-wide analytics. Edge AI is utilized for immediate processing of sensor data, crucial for early anomaly detection. Concurrently, a blockchain-based system ensures data integrity and security, essential for reliable farm management. Finally, we also describe our work on using LLMs for digital twin simulations.  This integrated approach promises significant advancements in precision dairy farming, optimizing both productivity and environmental sustainability.

Biography: Dr. Charles Cao is an associate professor of the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. He obtained the Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Science from Fudan University in Shanghai, China, in 2002, his Master of Science degree in Computer Science from the University of Virginia in 2005, and a Doctor of Philosophy degree in Computer Science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2008. He then joined the faculty of the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Over the years, Dr. Cao has worked in multiple research areas, including Cyber-physical systems, IoT, cyber-security, and networking systems. His work was funded by multiple NSF grants in these areas, including an NSF CAREER grant on IoT system software, NSF CPS grants on smart grid and precision agriculture, among others.


Nikki Labbé, Ph.D., University of Tennessee, U.S.A.

Title: “Design for a sustainable future: Advancing the sustainable production and use of renewable carbon

Abstract: Biodiversity loss, strain on food systems, threats to water systems, and many other impacts threaten sustainable life on our planet. Technology has advanced exponentially since the Industrial Revolution bringing many benefits; however, most of this technology is designed to work in a linear fashion – taking, using, and disposing of resources in a way that we now know is unsustainable.  Circular economy is a concept that has been around for some time with a focus on maximizing resource use and reducing waste. Recent interests have shifted the focus to the development of Circular Bioeconomy Systems (CBS) which takes the circular economy concept and adds the goal of moving from carbon-intensive products to lower carbon alternatives. To develop CBS, we are focusing our effort on three critical themes to guide the design of integrated feedstock systems, sustainable cascading products, and CBS metric systems. This presentation will focus on the design of sustainable products that maximize every carbon atom through cascading use. Our research aims to optimize the life of captured carbon in order to develop industrially viable, cost-effective products with end-of-service-life solutions. These products and materials will be designed to keep materials in use for as long as possible using a holistic, life-cycle-based design. Through these initiatives, CBS will help ensure humanities’ needs for food, fiber and fuels are met while protecting healthy ecosystems by utilizing the over 1.5 billion tons of renewable carbon that the US can harvest sustainably each year.

Biography: Dr. Nicole (Niki) Labbé is a Professor of Biomass Chemistry and the Assistant Director of the Center for Renewable Carbon, with an academic appointment in the School of Natural Resources at the University of Tennessee. She received her Ph.D. in Wood Sciences from University of Bordeaux, France. Over the past 20 years, Dr. Labbé’s research has focused on the development of new biological and chemical pathways through sustainable chemistry to effectively fractionate lignocellulosic biomass and produce unpolluted building blocks that can be converted into fuels, chemicals, and products. She has been awarded numerous grants from NSF, USDA, DOE, and private industries and frequently publishes peer-reviewed articles that advance the fundamentals of Circular Bioeconomy Systems. 


Chairs: Tim Rials & Niki Labbé (UT, USA), Joe Sagues (North Carolina State University), Keith Kline (ORNL)

Tim Rials, Ph.D., University of Tennessee, U.S.A.

Biography: Tim Rials is the Associate Dean of AgResearch at the University of Tennessee, Institute of Agriculture, following 15 years as the Director of the UT Center for Renewable Carbon. Dr. Rials is a graduate of Mississippi State University, and earned his M.S. and Ph.D. in wood science from Virginia Tech. He joined the university following 13 years with the U.S. Forest Service, after two years on the faculty of the University of California–Berkeley. Tim’s research career has focused on the development of renewable chemicals, including sustainable aviation fuels. Tim focuses on UT AgResearch programs by facilitating the development of multi-disciplinary faculty teams that cut across departments and institutions. He also promotes AgResearch relationships with commodity groups, agencies, and professional groups.