UCL Engineering


Big impact on a smaller scale: UCL entrepreneur makes eco-tech accessible to small farms

Converting farm waste into fuel and fertiliser is something that usually only happens on a large scale. But a UCL entrepreneur has pared down the technology so small farms can now use it, too.

A man watering crops in a poly tunnel.

5 November 2021

Recycling farm waste using anaerobic digestion tends to be costly and only affordable for large-scale agricultural operations. But thanks to the work of Dr Ilan Adler (UCL Civil, Environmental and Geomatic Engineering), small farm holdings can now recycle their waste and manure at an affordable cost as well. 

After spending time with rural communities in Mexico promoting eco-technologies, Ilan completed his PhD at UCL, before joining UCL’s Department of Civil, Environmental and Geomatic Engineering.  

It was while working with students on sustainable solutions for UK smallholdings that the idea of a small-scale biodigester was born. This pared-down technology allows smaller farms to recycle their waste into heat, biogas and liquid nutrients for the soil.  

The BioNomadä biodigester has been tested and shown to add value during a four-year trial at a farm in London, and other trials in the UK and Mexico. It is now being commercialised through Ilan’s spinout company EcoNomad.  

UCL Innovation & Enterprise helped with mentoring, advice and establishing international partnerships. The startup also received funding from UCL’s Higher Education Innovation Fund (HEIF), managed by UCL Innovation & Enterprise.   

The company is also working on another project to implement a patented, innovative solar water pumping technology in rural Ethiopia. It is being funded by Innovate UK, in collaboration with UCL and EcoNomad Solutions. 

Founder of the business Ilan said: “In these difficult times, finding ways to reduce our carbon footprint while generating essential resources locally is more imperative than ever. And where best to start than by harnessing the power of free inputs, such as agricultural waste and sunlight. Sometimes the best solutions are the simplest, and our widely diverse team constantly endeavours to ‘downscale’ traditionally costly or overly complex technologies, making them affordable for small farmers and remote communities worldwide.”  

Read the full story on the UCL Innovation & Enterprise website.



  • Credit: Zoe Schaeffer on Unsplash.

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