Environmental Biotechnology Network

EBNet Working Group: Anaerobic Fermentation


Mixed culture anaerobic fermentation (AF) is relatively new compared to anaerobic digestion (AD), although they are sometimes linked in terms of process and biochemistry. Recovery of organic products including fatty acids is the core task for AF, and it also offers potential for plant nutrient recovery at the same time.

One of the key processes to unlock the potential of AF as an environmental biotechnology, and a pillar of the circular bioeconomy, is direct product recovery from fermentation broth. This is extremely important to achieve steady-state continuous operation, in contrast to the over-exploited batch experiments. This aspect closely matches EBNet’s professed interest in the interaction between the biological system and its engineering envelope. Product-induced feedback inhibition could also be explored for continuous operation, to produce longer chain acids which are more valuable and easier to recover, rather than acetic acid. Feedstock characteristics also affect the product composition, and if the proposed group is interested in upstream processes and materials there is also potential to interact with BBNet. AF thus has upstream, central and downstream aspects: if we would like to see it adopted, then all of these components must work together.

This WG will therefore promote the integration of the different elements within the anaerobic fermentation process and system in order to maximise resource recovery and at the same time minimise the use of external inputs and the generation of waste materials. 

Working Group Co-ordinators

Dr Yue Zhang is an Associate Professor at the University of Southampton. Her research interests include anaerobic digestion, CO2 biomethanisation and mixed-culture fermentation for bio-based chemical production with integration of downstream recovery processes, especially on selective carboxylic acid production from protein-rich wastes.

Dr Luca Alibardi is Lecturer in Separation Processes at the Water Science Institute of Cranfield University. His research interests focus on systems integration and on the development of separation technologies to lead on the transition towards the circular and hydrogen economies. He developed knowledge in the field of biological hydrogen production from organic waste via the dark fermentation process and in the definition of dark fermentation as a key step in biorefinery schemes for energy and products recovery from wastewater and waste treatments.


Contact the Working Group co-ordinators: y.zhang@soton.ac.uk & l.alibardi@cranfield.ac.uk.

WG Activities

Coming soon – commencing March 2024.

Interesting Publications

Organic waste biorefineries: Looking towards implementation By: Luca Alibardi et al. In: Waste Management. Volume 114, 1 August 2020, Pages 274-286

Production of volatile fatty acids from slaughterhouse blood by mixed-culture fermentation By: Plácido, Jersson and Zhang, Yue (2018). In: Biomass Conversion and Biorefinery, 8 (3), 621-634.