PhD Student Profile

James O’Connor

The University of Western Australia

The aim of this research is to examine food waste valorisation products (dehydrated products, composted products, biochars, hydrolysates and anaerobic digestates). This research will evaluate the different products as a nutrient source and carbon amendment to improve soil health, soil carbon content, soil fertility and crop productivity. The specific objectives include:

  1. To synthesis and collect various food waste valorisation products.
  2. To analyse the physico-chemical characteristics of various food waste valorisation products.
  3. To evaluate the ability of food waste valorisation products to increase soil carbon, water infiltration and storage, and improve microbial processing of carbon and nutrients in soil.
  4. To undertake the agronomic evaluation of selected food waste valorisation products under glasshouse and field conditions.

PhD Title: “Food waste valorisation products as a nutrient source and carbon amendments.”

PhD start date: March 2021

Supervisors: Professor Nanthi Bolan, University of Western Australia, Professor Kadambot Siddique, University of Western Australia, Associate Professor Matthias Leopold, University of Western Australia, Dr Bede Mickan, University of Western Australia.

What interested you about this research?
I have always wanted to know how to optimise the growth of a crop whilst increasing the health of soils, especially in degraded soils. This research uses a waste product and has the potential to provide nutrients to crops as well as building a carbon rich, high microbial soil with many advantages compared to mineral fertilisers.

What do you love about soil?
I love the complexity and unknowns within soil science. I am always interested on how different parameters of a soil can influence the growth of plants. I also love the community within soil science whether it be students, other PhD students, researchers, supervisors, or in business.

What do you love about your PhD?
I love to work on real world challenges which has the potential to advance society and preserve the environment from human-made pollution. I also love the extreme hardships within the PhD and the rewarding satisfaction of solving challenging problems.

How will your PhD help to make a difference for farmers?
I hope the PhD will provide scientific knowledge about the uses of different existing and novel food waste fertilisers. These fertilisers are potentially a cheap nutrient source, can greatly improve the soils agronomic value and reduce the use of chemical fertilisers.

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