Sustainable UCL


UCL students turning animal waste into energy

The Department of Civil, Environmental Geomatic Engineering (CEGE) and Surrey Docks Farm are using a biodigester to turn the farm’s animal waste into sustainable energy.

Biodigester project

1 September 2019

Collaboration with local organisations is at the core of many of UCL’s innovative student research projects. Surrey Docks Farm is a working farm built on around two acres of land in South London; a vital green space and community resource within the busy docklands area of South London.

The project led by students and researchers, which was established in 1975, now works with local communities and groups across Southwark, providing educational opportunities and the chance to become actively involved in the life of a working farm.

CEGE has been working with the farm on a biodigester project designed to turn animal waste generated on site into sustainable energy and high value liquid fertiliser. Initially funded by a Grand Challenges for Sustainable Cities (GCSC) small grant, a team of six Environmental Engineering MEng students led by Dr Ilan Adler designed and installed the biodigester in the early part of 2014. The project then made it to the finals of the International CleanTech Challenge competition that year. Since then, several other students have also conducted research project building on this work.

Dr Ilan Adler explained the benefits of this practical approach to research:

‘The Surrey Docks Farm biogas project is allowing students to engage in practical, applied research that can bring enormous tangible benefits to the local community and other parts of the world, particularly to developing countries. It is also a great example of South-North collaboration, where a technology developed in Mexico by a social enterprise is imported and adapted to the conditions of the UK and the EU.’