The possibility of biomass utilization for sustainable agriculture was sought by visiting several plants in three Asian economies, analyzing flows of mass, energy, and money of the plants, and evaluating the process in terms of sustainability. The economies visited are Thailand, Indonesia, and People’s Republic of China, where 7 plants in total as well as research institutes for biomethanation, biodiesel production from jatropha, and bioethanol production were studied. The following conclusions were obtained.
The three technologies investigated in this study; small-scale biomethanation, jatropha* plantation, large-scale ethanol production from agricultural crops; are all effective for improving farmers’ life standard. They can be also effective in terms of sustainable agriculture since they lead to reduction of fossil fuel use in rural area. However, detailed LCA (Life Cycle Assessment) calculation is needed for jatropha and ethanol production. Sufficient information was not available for jatropha because the study had just begun. The LCA effectiveness of ethanol production is still controversial all over the world, and the detailed study is needed for each case. Reduction in biodiversity, number of species in the environment, is to be prevented when new plantation is introduced. In these cases, biodiversity reduction is avoided by intercropping, where new plant is grown in the crop field together with conventional crop, or using semi-arid lands, where barren land is used for plantation and biodiversity increases as a result. What is important for prevailing these technologies are farmers’ accessibility to the biomass utilization or collection site and education.
*Jatropha is a plant that can grow in a semi-arid land. Its seeds contain oil that can be used as cooking fuel.