Centre for Recycling of Organic Waste and Nutrients

The Centre for Recycling of Organic Waste and Nutrients (CROWN) was established in late 2017 as part of the School of Agriculture and Food Sciences (now the School of Agriculture and Food Sustainability), enabled by seed funding from the Queensland Department of Environment and Science.

The establishment of CROWN was prompted by the push to reduce and divert organic waste from landfill into agriculture and horticulture, the drive to find ways of value adding animal manures and reducing nitrogen losses in the manure supply chain, and the desire to improve resource use efficiency, maintain agricultural productivity, reduce negative environmental impacts and move towards a circular economy for organics.

CROWN is a multi-party centre with support from State and local governments, industry bodies, businesses and natural resource management groups, which will unite scientific expertise and professional know-how from across Australia, to be applied to the organic waste challenges faced by a wide range of communities and industries.  A key role of CROWN will be to build linkages between State and Local Government, the waste and organics recycling industry, academics, agricultural producers and natural resource management groups.  CROWN will provide the focus to bring the various interested parties together to develop inter-disciplinary research projects and deliver outcomes and change on the ground.


Johannes Biala

Centre for Recycling of Organic Waste and Nutrients
The University of Queensland 
Gatton QLD 4343
Email: j.biala@uq.edu.au
Mobile: 0409 062613

CROWN will be an independent research, training and advisory organisation that covers all aspects of organics recycling supply chains with the aim of advancing the Circular Economy for Organics.

CROWN will become a central knowledge hub within Queensland and Australia that will promote research, training and extension capabilities in segregating and collecting, processing and utilising organic waste materials and imbedded nutrients, and that will also disseminate technical and practical information for all organics recycling supply chain partners.

Diagram of crown relationship


CROWN’s activities cover the processing and beneficial use of all organic waste and nutrient streams, including municipal and commercial organics, manure and agricultural wastes, food and fibre processing residues, biosolids and sludges. Our focus however, will be, quite naturally, on the development and assessment of high-quality and fit for purpose recycled organic products and their beneficial use in terms of agronomic, economic and environmental effects. We envisage that a large proportion of our work will cover aspects of utilising raw and composted organic resources for land management and plant production purposes, but will also include the use of products such as digestate, biochar, struvite, or next-generation organo-mineral fertilisers.

CROWN’s focus is on research and development, but also on training and education of farmers, agronomists, composters, waste managers and regulators.


Utilising organic residues on Moreton Bay Islands for environmental, community and economic gain

Partner: Redland City Council

Redland City Council has asked CROWN to assist in assessing and establishing local organics recycling supply chains on six Moreton Bay Islands, which will deliver not only environmental advantages, but will also help in achieving community and economic development goals.


Developing emerging pathogen diagnostics to support the compost industry


  • Dr Paul Dennis, School of the Environment
  • Peats Soil & Garden Supplies

Joint funding from Peat Soils and Garden Supplies (SA) and the University of Queensland enabled a project to get under way that will develop and test real-time and digital PCR diagnostic methods for identifying pathogens in composted materials. These new diagnostic tools will facilitate determining the microbial and biosecurity risk not only of compost but of all organic soil amendments and support a move towards risk based product assessments, which is particularly important for horticultural industries.


Assessing the benefits of urban derived compost and custom blended fertiliser in intensive horticulture


  • Candy Soils
  • Superior Fertilisers

An Australian Government Innovation Connections Grant enables assessing the benefits of using urban-derived compost in combination with microbially enriched fertiliser in a lettuce / broccoli production system. Compost products are used annually at a standard and high application rate, the latter of which aims to satisfy crop P and K demand and also change soil physical properties markedly. Mineral fertiliser rates are reduced according to expected nutrient supply from compost products, aimed at developing a fertilisation regime that accounts for nutrient inputs from organic soil amendment products.



Developing the Circular Economy for Organics on the Sunshine Coast
  • Healthy Land & Water
  • Local Governments, organics processors and farmers from Sunshine Coast

This initiative aims to advance the Circular Economy for Organics on the Sunshine Coast by bringing together the key partners in the organics recycling supply chain, i.e. generators of organic waste materials, processors of organic residues and users of recycled organic products to find and develop pathways to a regional, self-sustaining circular economy for organics (CEO) where all supply chain partners benefit and feel rewarded equitably.


Other activites

Co-editing of revised On-Farm Composting Handbook; together with

  • Prof Robert Rynk, State University of New York, USA (main editor)
  • Jean Bonhotal, Cornell Waste Management Institute, USA
  • Mary Schwarz, Cornell Waste Management Institute, USA
  • Jane Gilbert, Carbon Clarity, UK


  • Sustainable Recycled Organics Market Advisory Group – Sustainability Victoria
  • Biosolids Technical Advisory Panel – QLD Dept of Environment and Science    

Future students projects

Can the use of wastewater precipitation products solve the phosphorous deficit in Australian organic farming systems?

Low availability of soil phosphorus is limiting organic grain production in Australia, holding back development of the organic food sector. Organic growers cannot use superphosphate to supply phosphorous for their crops, but have to use rock or soft phosphate, or tailor-made compost with elevated phosphorus levels. A possible alternative for organic farmers might be the use of wastewater precipitation products such as struvite or calcium phosphate, both of which are produced from the decant water of anaerobic digestion facilities processing wastewater from municipal, food processing or intensive animal industry sources.

The project will seek to clarify whether and under which conditions particular sources of phosphorus derived from wastewater, such as struvite or calcium phosphate, can be allowed as inputs in certified organic farming systems in Australia.

Furthermore, the project will also investigate, if these products are allowed inputs in overseas countries, and if so, under which conditions the use of these compounds is allowed? If wastewater precipitation products are not allowed inputs into organic farming systems at present, what possibilities are there to have this input accepted in the future? This project will seek to answer key questions concerning the situation in Australia and internationally.

Answers to these questions, together with a cost benefit assessment of using phosphorus inputs currently allowed in Australian certified organic farming systems in comparison with potential future alternatives, will be presented in a discussion paper for the organic farming community.

Johannes Biala

Johannes Biala
Director Operations and Delivery

More than 30 years of experience in the organics recycling sector makes Johannes Biala one of Australia’s veterans in this field. Johannes has managed his own company, ‘The Organic Force’ for 20 years, where he has conducted numerous interesting studies and R&D projects focused on organic waste, compositing and the beneficial use of recycled organic products. Furthermore, he also co-operated in large national and international waste management and resource recovery projects, worked with various waste treatment technologies, and most recently has been leading research into GHG emissions from organic residues during processing and after land application.

Between 2013 and 2016 he held a part-time position at the Queensland University of Technology as researcher and project coordinator and has taken on the role of Director at the Centre for Recycling of Organic Waste and Nutrients at the University of Queensland’s School of Agriculture and Food Sustainability. Over the years, Johannes has actively driven and promoted the development and expansion of the organics recycling industry, with a particular passion for the beneficial use of recycled organic products in agriculture and horticulture, culminating in the organization of an international conference in 2011 on compost use in horticulture.

Prior to moving to Australia, Johannes was based in Germany and the UK conducting studies into pathogen suppressive composts, introduction of kerbside organics collection schemes, and organics processing technologies.

Professor Neal Menzies

Professor Neal Menzies
Director Scientific Research and Development

Neal Menzies has a passion for agriculture and the environment, and has used his role as a teacher and research leader to bring others into this highly rewarding field. He believes that environmental scientists must go further than identifying where human activity is harming the environment, they must also deliver workable solutions to the problems. While his research spans a range of agricultural and environmental chemistry issues, he considers himself primarily a soil scientist, and sees soil science as a central discipline in the solution of a broad range of problems.

Neal’s main research interests are phyto-toxicity of metals, and in particular aluminium, surface charge chemistry, and the management of nutrients in tropical farming systems.

Neal is Past President of the Australian Society of Soil Science, and a Past Vice-President of the International Union of Soil Science.

Neal was Head of the former UQ School of Agriculture and Food Science.

The diagram outlines the internal co-operation model.

CROWN is thriving on collaboration!

CROWN is a multi-party and inter-disciplinary centre within the University of Queensland’s School of Agriculture and Food Sustainability with support from State and local government departments, industry bodies, businesses, natural resource management groups, and research organisations. CROWN cooperates internally and externally to engage the best available people and equipment required for investigating and solving problems to deliver outcomes. Our unparalleled capacity to source diverse scientific expertise, focus on practical solutions and harness decades of wide-ranging experience allows us to support the entire organics recycling supply chain.

Realising its collaborative approach, CROWN is building on the considerable disciplinary strength in soil science, plant nutrition, agronomy, economics and land management which exists within the School of Agriculture and Food Sciences, combined with complimentary waste and wastewater processing expertise available within other faculties and the Advanced Water Management Centre.

Collaboration with university colleagues is the foundation of our work, but our willingness and capacity to collaborate with external partners will determine CROWN’s long-term success. A key role of CROWN is to advance organics recycling activities by supporting all partners within diverse organics recycling supply chains.  

Collaborating partners

Since its recent establishment, CROWN has been collaborating at various levels with the following organisations:

State and local Government agencies:

  • QLD Department of Environment and Science
  • Sustainability Victoria
  • Redland City Council
  • Noosa Council
  • Sunshine Coast Regional Council
  • Moreton Bay Regional Council

Industry and NRM organisations:

  • Australian Organics Recycling Association (AORA)
  • Queensland Farmers Federation (QFF)
  • Australian Eggs
  • Healthy Land & Water

Commercial enterprises:

  • Peats Soil and Garden Supplies
  • Candy Soils
  • Superior Fertilisers
  • Organic Nutrients

Research organisations:

  • RMIT University
  • Southern Cross University
  • State University of New York, USA
award winners display their certificates
Winners of the 2019 awards.

The Australian Organic Recycling Association (AORA) is presenting the annual AORA Student Research Awards, which are sponsored by Komptech and managed by CROWN. The AORA Awards for Advancing Research, Development and Education in Organics Recycling aim to encourage postgraduate students enrolled at Honours, Masters or PhD level at an Australian or New Zealand university to undertake and excel in research designed to advance organics recycling activities and outcomes. The awards were first awarded in 2019. Research considered for an award may apply to any stage of the supply chains of source separated urban derived organic materials, food and fibre processing residues, biosolids, and also agricultural residues such as animal manures and mortalities. Further information is provided in the Awards Guidelines and the nomination form is available below.

The draft Queensland Waste Management and Resource Recovery Strategy has been published and is open for comment. The waste reduction targets proposed in the new strategy provide objectives for local governments and industry to work towards. As we all know, the appropriate management of organic residues, i.e. food and garden organics (FOGO) contained in municipal waste and many commercial residues will have to feature prominently in planning scenarios that aim to achieve the proposed waste reduction and recycling targets. 

Local governments in New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia, have faced similar situations in the past. This is why we thought it is a good idea to take a look over the fence and see what they did, to learn what worked for them and to hear where they experienced problems in dealing with municipal FOGO. Consequently, CROWN is hosting a Symposium that looks at The Future of FOGO in Queensland, primarily by inviting our southern neighbours to talk about what they did, how it worked for them, and  most importantly, to answer your questions. 

Hence, it is my pleasure and privilege to invite you to The Future of FOGO in Queensland Symposium, which will be held on Monday 25 March 2019 in Brisbane. We have timed this event so that you can travel to Brisbane on Monday morning in good time for the start of the Symposium at 11.00 and also attend the WMRR's Landfill and Transfer Station Conference, which begins the following day.

Download the full symposium program (PDF, 652.5 KB), directions to the venue, and a link to our registration site.

I look forward to welcoming you to The Future of FOGO in Queensland!