Skip to main content

Agricultural and Biological Engineering

Agricultural and Biological Engineering

A Hinkley Center supported research project

Evaluating and Optimizing the Value of Anaerobic Digestion of Food Waste Using Sensitivity Analysis and Machine Learning 

AboutTeamTechnical Advisory Group & Quarterly Reports

About the Project

This project aims to advance the state-of-the-art of anaerobic digestion (AD) of food waste by evaluating the variability and uncertainty of AD performance as a function of food waste composition and AD operating parameters, and to develop a machine-learning based predictive tool that can estimate AD performance and corresponding economic and environmental impact metrics. 

Food waste (FW) is one of the largest fractions of wet-organic waste. It’s estimated that one-third of all food produced for human consumption is wasted globally (FAO, 2011). In the U.S., 35 million of tons of FW is landfilled representing a significant resource and economic loss (EPA,2020). Anaerobic digestion (AD) is a biological conversion process that can be used as an alternative to landfilling to reduce negative environmental impacts and support valuable resource recovery from FW (Cruz et al, 2012; Choi et al., 2022). Two limitations to the adoption of AD technology include economic viability (Cruz et al, 2022), and performance stability due to compositional variability of the FW. For low volumes of waste, the capital cost associated with AD and biogas upgrading can outweigh the potential value of the biogas. However, AD has been gaining increasing attention due to recent policy and economic incentives aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions by either diverting FW from landfills or incentivizing renewable natural gas (RNG) production. In addition, the inherent compositional variability of FW (e.g., carbohydrate, protein, lipid content) can have a significant effect on AD performance and stability. Therefore, by developing tools that allow us to better understand and predict the performance of AD of FW we can more easily address potential process stability challenges and improve its economic viability. 

Results from this project will be shared with the project’s Technical Advisory Group, which includes city, county, and industry stakeholders, to aid in development of future AD projects and to support sustainable FW management. 

AboutTeam • Technical Advisory Group & Quarterly Reports

Our Team

Principal Investigator

Dr. Ana Martin-Ryals

Ana Martin-Ryals

Assistant Professor

Agricultural & Biological Engineering


Nikolay Bliznyuk

Associate Professor

Agricultural & Biological Engineering


Placeholder image

Allison Donald


Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering

Jithran Ekanayake

Ph.D. Student

Agricultural & Biological Engineering

Placeholder image

Camil Coss Flores


Agricultural & Biological Engineering

AboutTeamTechnical Advisory Group & Quarterly Reports

Technical Advisory Group

Mike Heimbach

Sustainability Manager, Public Works Department 

Solid Waste Division, City of Gainesville, FL 

Eric Neihaus, P.E.

Planning Engineer,

Gainesville Regional Utilities, Gainesville, FL 

Patrick Irby

Waste Collection & Alternatives Manager,  

Solid Waste and Resource Recovery, Alachua County, FL 

Søren Jørgensen

Senior Vice President, Global Business Development 

Bigadan A/S, Copenhagen, Denmark 

Justin Stankiewicz

Director of RNG Development 

Chesapeake Utilities Corporation, Jacksonville, FL

Del Bottcher, PhD, P.E.

Consulting Engineer and President of  

Soil and Water Engineering Technology, Inc., Gainesville, FL 

David Gregory

Manager, Solids Waste Division 

Orange County Utilities, Orlando, FL 

Timothy Townsend

Executive Director 

Hinkley Center for Solid and Hazardous Waste Management, Gainesville, FL 

Steven Laux, P.E.  Hinkley Center for Solid and Hazardous Waste Management, Gainesville, FL 
Amir Varshovi, PhD


GreenTechnologies LLC, Gainesville, FL

City of Gainesville logo GRU logo Alachua County Logo Bigadan logo Logo for Chesapeake Utilities Corporation Logo for Orange County Government Florida Logo for Hinkley Center