Five new ways...
Yorkshire and the Humber host a world-class research base in a strongly agricultural region. So it’s perhaps not surprising that the area is full of new ideas for finding value from agricultural residues. BioVale is an organisation that supports innovation for the bioeconomy across the region.
Elspeth Bartlet of BioVale shares five of her favourite innovations making more from crop waste.
1 Car batteries from potato starch
Yorkshire and the Humber is great at growing potatoes and home to major potato processors, such as McCains and Branston. The Biorenewables Development Centre, as part of the Porous4app project, has scaled up a method for the treatment of starch, a by-product of potato processing. Starch is expanded, then dried and finally treated in a specialised furnace. This turns starch into a form of porous carbon material with a range of uses – including energy storage for electric vehicles and as a green catalyst for the chemicals industry.
2 Cosmetics from food waste
The cosmetics industry is responding to rising demand from consumers to replace fossil fuel derivatives with natural product ingredients. Keracol, a spin out company from the University of Leeds, uses waste from the food industry and extracts natural ingredients for cosmetics. Keracol are exploiting natural colorants in residues from fruits and vegetables processing, such as blackcurrant skins left over after juice pressing, to produce a range of vibrant, natural hair dyes. They also use grape pomace and citrus fruits peels to extract components with anti-aging and anti-microbial properties, now used in their skincare products.
3 Food packaging from tomato skins
Tomato skins contain a waxy, water-repellent substance called cutin. BioVale is a partner in Agrimax: an EU-funded project that is developing and demonstrating the production of a range of high-value products from crop waste. Agrimax is developing the use of tomato cutin as a food-safe lining for tin cans. A purpose built biorefinery in Italy is using tomato skins to produce -not only cutin- but also lycopene (a natural colourant) and liquid fertiliser.
4 High-value chemicals and biobased composites from wheat straw
Like many crop residues, wheat straw contains a range of valuable compounds, including natural waxes with properties similar to industrial wax. The Green Chemistry Centre of Excellence at the University of York has been working on a low-cost method to extract these waxes for commercial applications whilst the dewaxed straw has been compressed into bioboards, using aqueous binders free from urea, formaldehyde, isocyanate and phenolic resins.
5 Designed co-products
The crops of the future might not generate any residues. Instead, they will be multipurpose crops, with all parts of the crop plant optimised for specific uses and none left as waste. Professor Simon McQueen Mason’s group at the University of York is using cutting edge plant genomics to developing new rice varieties with straw that is suitable for use as animal feed and biofuel production. These will replace existing varieties whose straw is not useful and must be burnt- a major air quality problem for the Philippines and Vietnam.