top of page
Agricultural Farms

WSU-CSI-PNNL Ag Symbiosis Report:
Frequently Asked Questions

Why was the study commissioned?

The legislature commissioned the study to learn whether and how the principles of industrial symbiosis, where one industry’s waste becomes another’s valued feedstock, could help the economic viability and sustainability of Washington agriculture.

What’s in the report?

Recommendations for increasing the economic value and sustainability of Washington’s agriculture sector through the of industrial symbiosis principles, along with case studies, policy analyses and best practice examples drawn from interviews with innovators and farmers.

What is Agriculture Symbiosis?

Agriculture Symbiosis describes what happens when food, beverage, or farm businesses partner with other businesses to share their surplus resources – energy, water, and organic ‘wastes’ – for mutual economic benefit and waste reduction.

How widespread is the practice of symbiotic agriculture in Washington state?

Farmers and processors have always practiced efficiency and resource conservation. Symbiosis takes this into more complex arrangements between businesses. Though we probably didn’t learn about every such project, we found 12 operational projects and 8 in active development in Washington state at the time of the study, spread across the state in 14 counties.

Is agriculture symbiosis some sort of new government mandate or requirement for farmers?

No, there is no government mandate to adopt these practices. The study examines how support might be created or expanded to facilitate more of these win-win arrangements.

Since agriculture symbiosis is about creating new revenue and cost savings for farmers and processors, what sort of environmental benefits can it offer?

Waste creates a variety of problems. Waste brings with it the need to treat, manage or dispose of waste, all of which costs money and time. Waste also means that resources aren’t being fully utilized, and the unused portions or unintended consequences are often the source of climate, land, air and water pollution. By converting waste to value, we more fully utilize natural resources, shrink waste volumes and corresponding pollution, and instill a new practice of full resource utilization among industry. From smarter water use, soil quality improvements, and fossil fuel replacement, agricultural symbiosis helps people enjoy cleaner air and water along with ongoing access to locally grown food.  

How can legislative action help farmers and processors adopt agricultural symbiosis?

The legislature can work to promote inter-industry collaboration and infrastructure support, fund research that unlocks new opportunities, in addition to reviewing and amending policies that hinder such resource exchanges.

What sort of infrastructure will be required to make some of these practices mainstream?

Infrastructure to efficiently recover and recycle into new production processes the flows of waste heat, organic, carbon-rich materials, and wastewater from food production are key to the success of agricultural symbiosis. Transforming waste into value also requires efficient transportation and logistics across agriculture supply chains.  

Can small producers benefit from agricultural symbiosis or is it more suitable for larger operations?

Absolutely. Some of the projects profiled are of small producers, and in some cases smaller businesses can interact with larger ones to exchange valuable services or feedstocks.

Are there grants or other sources of support to help producers get started?

There are a variety of grants available to farmers and processors, and many of them are relevant to agricultural symbiosis. For grants to support symbiosis specifically, visit the Commerce site for the Industrial Symbiosis Program Industrial Symbiosis: Washington State - Where the Next Big Thing Begins (

In addition to cost savings and new revenue opportunities, are there examples of agricultural symbiosis creating new jobs?

Yes, the City of Pasco applied symbiosis to their Process Water Reuse Facility and are adding year-round wastewater storage that will allow food processors to move to year-round production and the creation of an estimated 300+ full-time jobs plus construction jobs.

bottom of page