Italy’s Green Technologies: From Sicilian Avocados To Wine Waste

While Italy lags behind in green technologies, there are some incredible examples of success. We share two of the most inspiring.

green technologies
Plant inaugurated at Caviro & Enomondo. Ribbon cut by Faenza Mayor. Photo: Asia Guerreschi

According to the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD), Italy is an active and important player in the field of green development. The country’s leadership is strongest when connecting domestic and development cooperation priorities, illustrating its own actions on cultural heritage, agriculture, and food security.

For example, in the midst of the war in Ukraine, Italy has guaranteed funding for NATO, while it’s also helping to finance the United Nation’s Agenda 2030 for the Sustainable Development Goals also to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. Further, in 2011, Italy introduced the Product Environmental Footprint framework, which collects methodologies and indicators towards environmental measurements, such as the Water Footprint, Carbon Footprint, and Life Cycle Assessment to create the label Made Green in Italy. This label has the objective of providing value to local products with good to excellent environmental standards guaranteed by a robust scientific model.

But where Italy is still lagging behind is in the field of green technology and research. The northern region of Lombardy seems to be leading the national absolute number of companies that have invested or will invest in green technologies, which are 87,784. Yet when it comes to green patents for renewable energy Italy is not performing as well as many other countries, according to the report published by the National Agency for New Technologies, Energy and Sustainable Economic Development (ENEA).

Yet this could be about to change. More funding is now being directed to renewable energy across Italy. And what’s more, many Italian companies are beginning to invest in new methods and research, to produce quality while reducing emissions.

How Caviro Extra is using green technologies to turn waste wine into energy

In Emilia-Romagna, there’s one food and drink business that’s making particularly innovative use of green technology. That’s Caviro Extra, a wine production cooperative that this week has inaugurated a plant in cooperation with Enomondo to provide electricity to neighboring industries and businesses. Through the waste from the wine production chain, the plant produces steam at high pressure and temperature which is transformed into electricity.

Caviro is engaged in the recovery of by-products derived from the wine and agri-food chain, which are then transformed into biomethane and products for the food, pharmaceutical, and agricultural sectors. In this way, the company is truly contributing to a circular economy, the necessary model for a just ecological transition. In fact, Caviro has generated over €390,000 this year, a growth of 8% on last year.

“This operation is part of that ecological transition essential for our country,” the President of the Region Stefano Bonaccini, who presented the inauguration, said. Yet it will be interesting to see how Caviro survives into the future. As a production cooperative in a world of private organizations, it’s looking to innovate not just in technology, but in its very model of business too.

Emilia-Romagna President Stefano Bonaccini speaking at the inauguration with (from left) Sergio Celotti (Managing director of Enomondo), Carlo Dalmonte (Caviro President), and Massimo Isola (Faenza Mayor). Photo: Asia Guerreschi

How research and local expertise are producing Made in Sicily avocados

Meanwhile, in Sicily, a young firm is showing Italy how we can adapt to changing climate conditions through local knowledge and expertise.

Across land that was once home to vineyards, Andrea Passanisi specializes in the production of exotic fruit. Given Sicily’s climate, he’s now focused on his ‘Made in Sicily’ avocados. The avocado plantation is found in the town of Giarre, on the slopes of Mt. Etna, where the trees benefit from ideal soil and conditions for the production of their fruit, and it is supported by the University of Cagliari’s research on growing particular fruits in this microclimate.

Resulting from the relationship between this company and the University comes the opportunity to study how the climate is impacting crop growth. In particular, it’s important to be aware of where agriculture is possible in future.

Some experts calculate that the world will need 70% more food by 2050 to feed a population expected to increase by 2 billion over the next 30 years.” This could lead to additional greenhouse gases from previously untouched soil. The impact on water and biodiversity will also be devastating.

But green technologies and adaptive practices could support this need to expand agriculture by supporting the growing population while reducing devastating climate impacts. And as Passanisi and Caviro Extra show, we’re capable of producing these practices right here in Italy.

Green technologies and circular economy: the pillars of a sustainable future

The latest circular economy report stated that while Italy was considered the most successful in Europe in terms of waste management, it was the lowest in related technological patents. This means that while Italy is making efficient use of the green development that’s in-house, it’s still largely relying on foreign technologies for innovation.

However, examples such as Caviro and Enomondo demonstrate that through cooperation and technological innovation, it’s possible to provide solutions that can help reduce emissions and environmental impact. That’s possible in particular when the change is being led by a cooperative and not just simply a profit-looking firm.

Yet, Caviro’s is not yet a scalable solution. As the engineers explained during the inauguration, the technology requires trial tests and can, for the moment, only extend to a certain amount of kilometers providing only a small amount of energy. However, this does not mean that it is not a step in the right direction.

Will it be applicable all over Italy? Probably not. Funding issues, as well as the absence of proper preparation, knowledge, and available infrastructure, will likely be enduring obstacles.

But what does it mean? That innovation is possible, that processes need to be adapted for local standards and availability, and mostly that we need informed experts and dedicated funding. And that’s something that, for all the criticism leveled against it, the Italian National Recovery Plan (PNRR) is trying to do.