14 Aug 2019

AgriMax: Turning food and crop waste into new products

Every year, around one-third of all food produced across the world is wasted before it even reaches the consumer. The team of the BBI JU’s project, AgriMax, is tackling the problem by turning crop and food-processing waste into high-value products.

Every year in Europe alone, around 90 million tonnes of food and 700 million tonnes of crop go to waste. The UN reports that the market value of lost or wasted food products across the world as a whole is approximately USD 936 billion. In addition, this waste of resources is responsible for 8 % of all annual global greenhouse gas emissions.

The BBI JU’s AgriMax project is addressing the issue by using this waste to produce new bio-based compounds for the chemicals, food packaging and agricultural sectors. The compounds could end up being used in the manufacture of a variety of products, including bio-composite packaging for food, natural additives for food ingredients, and agricultural products such as fertilisers and biodegradable mulching pots.

‘We will be working closely with end-users to test the quality and performance of any new products, and any remaining biomass will be used for biogas or returned to the land for soil enrichment,’ explains project coordinator Albert Torres from IRIS Technology Solutions, Spain. ‘Our aim is for AgriMax to become a flagship for the circular economy, where waste finds new applications in the sector that produced it, closing loops between primary production and reuse.’

Building biorefineries

To develop its new compounds, the project team is building two pilot plants to process different types of waste. The first biorefinery is at a family-run farm in northern Italy and is almost ready to start processing waste from tomatoes and cereals. It will produce lycopene, ferulic acid, cutin and hydro-compost. The other refinery is being built at the facilities of a fruit producer in southern Spain. It will process olive and potato waste to produce polyphenols, fibres, protein and aromas.

A variety of processing technologies will be used to find the best solution for each type of waste, including ultrasound extraction, filtration and enzyme treatments. Great care is taken to ensure the supply of waste material heading to the plants is properly coordinated and managed.

‘The pilot plants are designed to accept multiple feedstocks, and an online stakeholder platform will coordinate the provision of waste from producers across each region,’ says Torres. ‘This will help us deal with seasonal and regional fluctuations in production so we can make the most of the biorefineries throughout the year, thereby maximising their efficiency and profitability.’

Business models

The project is committed to developing a model for the use of waste that is viable in the long term, not just technically but also from a business point of view. It will rigorously assess the environmental and ethical issues relating to its production pathways, including all safety and regulatory implications. This work includes assessing the effect of new bio-based fertilisers on soil health.

Moreover, the AgriMax team is working on producing business strategies for the commercialisation of any new products it creates. The goal is to ensure sustainability of production and to secure regular incomes for those supplying the biorefineries, including local farmers and horticultural businesses.

The project is also investigating whether these plants could be run by agricultural cooperatives, creating an economically and environmentally sustainable model that could be emulated by others across Europe.

This project is funded under Bio-based Industries Joint Undertaking (BBI JU) initiative, a public-private partnership aiming at the development of the bio-based industries sector in Europe.

See also

Project website
Project details

29 Jul 2019

New fibre-based ready meal trays from Huhtamaki to replace black plastic

Waitrose & Partners has launched its Italian ready-meal range in a new fibre-based tray suited for both microwave and regular ovens. The new trays, called Fresh, are manufactured by the global food packaging specialist Huhtamaki, and the fibre used as the base material comes from the Swedish forest company Södra. The trays can be recycled, and they are also certified for home composting.

A high-end retailer, a premium food manufacturer, an innovative fibre material producer and a food packaging specialist have joined forces to find a plastic-replacing, sustainable solution for ready meal trays used in significant quantities every day.

Waitrose & Partners has launched its Italian ready-meal range in a new fibre-based tray suited for both microwave and regular ovens.

“We have made a commitment to move out of black plastic by the end of 2019”, says Nikki Grainge, Packaging Development Manager from Waitrose & Partners in the UK.

“We have been testing the new trays since May 2018 and have received very positive feedback from our customers”, Grainge continues. “Now, with the current launch of the Italian range using the new tray, we’ll be able to move nearly 9 million meals out of black plastic.”

Fresh trays are made from natural materials and the fibre comes from certified, sustainable Nordic forests. This means that per every tree cut down, three more trees are planted.

“The project started already in 2016 with the aim to find alternative food packaging for trays made from black plastic, most often CPET. The reason to avoid this material is not only its fossil origin but also because it is problematic to recycle due to the detection systems used in end-of-life material separation”, says Steve Davey, Project Manager from Huhtamaki.

An important accelerator was the EU’s Bio Based Industries Joint Undertaking program for research and innovation, securing the initial funding and helping build the core team. The team wanted to spearhead the new concept in the UK, which is one of the most significant markets for ready meals in Europe.

Fresh and innovative ideas

“Demand for sustainable alternatives is increasing from both manufacturers and customers. For Södra, the collaboration in Fresh project offers an opportunity to learn more about how we can use our bio-based raw materials as an alternative to fossil packaging in such an important area of use as food packaging”, says Catrin Gustavson, Head of Innovation & New business at Södra.

“Huhtamaki has extensive knowledge in the molded-fibre technology which is used to manufacture the trays for Waitrose. Together with the team, we were able to test alternatives and find the right solution all the way from pulp to the retail shelves”, Steve Davey says.

“We have called the new tray concept Fresh. We will continue to develop its properties further and believe there are many new applications for it.”

Find out more about the FRESH project.

24 Jun 2019

Study: Top Feedstocks For Pyrolysis Biorefinery

A study into the composition and processability of different biomass feedstocks has found sunflower seed husks and poplar wood slabs to be the most suitable for producing bio-based products via fast pyrolysis conversion. The study was conducted by Capax Biobased Development and BTG Biomass Technology Group as part of the Horizon 2020 project Bio4Products, which is testing the feasibility of a fast pyrolysis based biorefinery concept.

Feedstock composition

A shortlist of 10 feedstocks were studied, focusing on residues from agriculture, food/feed processing and forestry: Hemp shives, Flax shives, Flax pellets, Wheat straw, Olive kernels, Sunflower husks, Poplar wood slabs, Softwood, Hardwood (poplar) and Phytoremediated poplar wood. These feedstocks were selected based on a previous study into biomass availability as well as their suitability for processing and sustainability parameters.

Capax first investigated the physical properties of each feedstock including particle size and moisture content. This was followed by a chemical characterisation, analysing lignin/cellulose/hemi-cellulose ratio, and ash and mineral content.

Effect on pyrolysis products and fractions

To analyse the effect on quality and yield of fast pyrolysis bio-oil – the main product of fast pyrolysis – each of the feedstocks were converted by BTG Biomass Technology Group at their plant in the Netherlands. The highest yield was obtained from the softwood dust, while the worst result came from the wheat straw.

Finally the bio-oils obtained from the different feedstocks were extracted to obtain lignin and sugar fractions. In general, no large differences were found during the extractions. Based on these results and other criteria including ease of handling and sustainability, a ranking was made, with sunflower seed husks and poplar wood slabs coming out on top.

New bio-based products

The lignin and sugar fractions are renewable chemical intermediates that are being used by downstream partners in the Bio4Products project to substitute fossil materials such as phenols and creosote. Hexion is using the pyrolytic lignin to replace fossil phenol in moulding compounds and insulation foams. TransFurans Chemicals are testing how the sugar fraction can be applied in furan based resins, and is working with Foreco to develop a formulation for wood modification.

Partners are reporting positive results, and it is expected that new bio-based products could hit the market soon after the project closes in 2020.

You can find the study in our resources section.

(Article sourced from: www.bio4products.eu)

20 Jun 2019

Karel De Winter

Job title: Team leader bioprocessing 

Company: Bio Base Europe Pilot Plant

Tell us about your education and working life up to now.

I pursued a PhD at Ghent University after obtaining my MSc in bioscience engineering. Thanks to the FWO Flanders (a Belgium public research council) I focused on research in the field of applied biotechnology. From this I presented in numerous international conferences, publications, patents and book chapters. Completing my PhD I joined the Bio Base Europe Pilot Plant (BBEPP) as an R&D project engineer where I currently lead a talented team in the field of industrial biotechnology.

What is your main expertise?

During my PhD I studied enzymatic glycosylation processes, enzyme engineering around the recombinant production and purification of proteins. Now at BBEPP I lead projects on biomass pre-treatment, biocatalysis, (gas) fermentation, downstream purification and green chemistry. In this broad area of industrial biotechnology, the team is focused on process development and scale-up, as well as food-grade applications,

What is your work focused on in the Rehap project?

BBEPP is involved in scaling Rehap's developed processes - the extraction of tannins, lignin and carbohydrates from agroforestry waste - as well as the subsequent fermentation of the obtained carbon source to diols, including their isolation. This latter process highlights the broad spectrum of technology BBEPP offers from biomass pre-treatment over fermentation to ATEX downstream processing.

What are the main challenges you face in this work and how are you meeting these challenges?

In the scale-up the most typical are linked to the broad spectrum of technologies applied. When scaling processes from lab to pilot scale, small challenges encountered in the lab such as purification steps, are exacerbated. For example, when extracting bark, a relatively simple process, it floats on water making it difficult to handle and pump. Also, the piloting phase is used to elevate the performance of any process with industrial equipment and so this is the stage where hurdles are typically encountered. A pro-active mind-set, flexibility and hands-on mentality are must-haves in any piloting environment.

How do you see your work helping the project achieve its main objectives?

Process development at lab scale is a high risk yet low capital-intensive operation. An industrial process on the other hand, typically requires a huge capital investment, but the associated risks from a technological point of view after often limited. Between both phases there is a distinct gap in the innovation chain. During piloting the technological risks are still obvious, while also large capital investments are required. Therefore, the use of shared pilot facilities allows this gap to be bridged in the most efficient way: forging equipment, utilities and in particular skilled and experienced workers. Scaling Rehap processes at BBEPP has allowed in-depth techno-economic assessments, as well as the generation of significant amounts of sample materials.

What impact do you see Rehap having in the future?

Some of the processes developed during the project certainly have potential for commercialisation. However, as is the case for many biotechnological driven innovations, policy makers will have to make sure a suitable environment is created to enable true market penetration.

When scaling processes from lab to pilot scale, small challenges encountered in the lab such as purification steps, are exacerbated

What do you enjoy more about working on a project like Rehap?

Working on the establishment of technology to convert agroforestry waste to building materials is both challenging and inspiring. Moreover, Rehap bundles a large variety of motivated people skilled in different domains. We are also blessed with a great coordinator who makes sure the entire project remains on track.

How would you like to see your work develop after the project ends?

I anticipate the Rehap results to contribute to a solid basis for further research and valorisation. For BBEPP, a continued collaboration with partners from the consortium would be beneficial. 

Meet the other brains behind Rehap

18 Jun 2019

The Assembly SusChem 2019

SusChem is the European platform for sustainable chemistry and will be holding the Assembly SusChem-Spain 2019 on the 26 June.

Rehap will be attending the assembly which will be focused on the next European Framework of Research and Innovation Horizon Europe program. The event will take place at the Ministry of Science, Innovation and Universities and address all issues related to future missions with public-private partnerships (SPIRE, BBI and Hyrdrogen and fuel cells) and new opportunities for the chemical sector. Five areas will be addressed in which chemistry will have a fundamental role.

During the session, among others, Aitor Barrio will present on the keys of, Systematic approach to reduce energy demand and CO2 emissions that transform agroforestry waste into high added-value products as presented in the Rehap project.

Another issue that will be addressed will be that 2020 marks the end of the current European Framework Program for Research Innovation, H2020. A specific session will assess its successor, Horizon Europe.

Read the program here (Spanish).

For more information, visit the website.

14 Jun 2019

EURO 2019 Conference

The 30th European Conference on operational research is taking place on 23 – 26 June 2019 in Dublin, Ireland, and Rehap will be in providing an oral presentation.

The Scientific and Organisation Committees, chaired by Luis Gouveia and Seán McGarraghy, along with Cathal MacSwiney Brugha, have prepared a high quality scientific program and an exciting social program for the conference.

At the conference, Rehap will be presenting during the Sustainable Supply Chains, Session WD22 – Energy Management, on Wednesday at 14:30 to 16:00.

The presentation will look in detail at the, Environmental benefits of a second-generation bioethanol production network designed by integrating Life Cycle Assessment and supply chain network optimisation.

For more information on what Rehap will be presenting, contact: amelia@ipl.eu.com

The full extensive online programme can be found on the website here.

03 Jun 2019

New poster on upscaling processes

TECNALIA and BBEPP are involved in developing an industrial scalable process to obtain lignin for further transformation into high value products. TECNALIA performed a mild extraction to dissolve lignin and further precipitated with sulfuric acid, whilst BBEPP scaled up this method.

To present this development a poster has been created titled: Lignin purification from poplar hydrolysis: From laboratory tests to pilot scale.

Click on the image below to see the complete poster.







If you are working on the Rehap project and would like a poster designed, please get in contact with Amelia at amelia@ipl.eu.com.

28 May 2019

Webinar highlights Rehap’s progress in biomass feedstock and valorisation

Responding to the ambitious targets set in the EU’s Europe 2020 strategy of sustainable patterns of consumption and production, Rehap is an EU-funded project facilitating a significant step towards a better use of natural resources by creating novel materials from agricultural and forestry waste, whilst decreasing the use of fossil resources and energy in the process industry.

The project recently held its first webinar, Biomass feedstock and valorisation: An introduction and insight into transforming agroforestry waste into high added-value commercial and sustainable products developed by the REHAP project. The webinar took a close look at the progress being made after two years’ working on biomass feedstock and valorisation.

Aitor Barrio, Rehap project coordinator from TECNALIA led the webinar providing a streamlined detailed overview of the technical objectives of Rehap and how it will demonstrate turning waste into reliable and sustainable applications later to be demonstrated as a prototype structure.

To provide a picture of the processes and regulations in sourcing this agroforestry waste material, Lars Wietschel from the University of Augsburg the state-of-the-art agroforestry residues and the forecasting results of their 2030 waste potentials.

Discussing the optimisation of these biomass waste stream processing and upscaling, Tarja Tamminen, researcher at VTT, explained the novel approach developed to utilise bark by soda/kraft cooking away from the hot water bark extraction traditionally used in the industry.

Andrea Leoncini from RINA Consulting followed by providing a comprehensive look at the project’s market analysis and impact through the life cycle approach. This provided an extremely interesting picture of how Rehap is hoping to sustainability develop and implement these processes for a greener building sector.

During the webinar poll questions were asked to the audience of professionals in companies and institutions such as the pulp and paper industry, biorefineries, forest proprietaries, sawmills and those in the chemical industries or phenolic resin manufacturing for example. Interesting data was revealed on how they saw the progress and wide-scale adoption across Europe in the uptake of bio-based products over their fossil-based equivalents.

These questions, and the results, along with the webinar on demand, can be found here!

This is the first in a series of Rehap webinars. Sign up to the newsletter to be the first to hear about the second edition.

For any questions regarding the webinar on the project, please contact Amelia: amelia@ipl.eu.com

15 May 2019

Webinar Rescheduled

Webinar - Rescheduled

Biomass feedstock and valorisation
An introduction and insight into transforming agroforestry waste into high
added-value commercial and sustainable products developed by the REHAP project

20 May 2019 – Watch live and on demand. Register today!

Responding to the ambitious targets set in the EU’s Europe 2020 strategy of sustainable patterns of consumption and production, REHAP is an EU-funded project facilitating a significant step towards a better use of natural resources by creating novel materials from agricultural and forestry waste, whilst decreasing the use of fossil resources and energy in the process industry.

The project’s first webinar takes a close look at the progress being made after two years’ work in creating these novel materials from agriculture and forestry waste for commercial use in the green construction sector. Expert project partners from the University of Augsburg, Tecnalia, VTT Research Centre and Rina Consulting will be leading discussions on the following topics:

  • An introduction to REHAP and the project’s main objectives.
  • Waste management – forecasting of feedstock potentials in the EU.
  • Optimisation of biomass waste stream processing and upscaling.
  • Market analysis and life cycle assessment (LCA) of REHAP processes.

The webinar will divulge on-going project results to provide a picture of the processes the project is developing and using to produce and up-scale waste material into pilot scale eco-friendly products and demonstrate their sustainability and business potential compared to existing solutions.

Get involved and speak out

During the webinar you will have the opportunity to submit any questions you may have to the speakers, which will be answered live during the designated Q&A session at the end of the webinar.

Who should attend?

This webinar will interest professionals in companies and institutions that are related to the production of low-value residues such as bark, wheat straw and sawmill. This might include the pulp and paper industry, biorefineries, forest proprietaries, sawmills, farmers and forest associations, amongst others.

Also, those in the chemical industries of the likes of phenolic resin manufacturing, polyurethane industries and adhesive manufacturing could be interesting to know about new biosources for their raw materials.

Registering for the webinar will also allow you to become part of a growing network of key actors in the biomass and bioeconomy space in Europe, taking part in discussions and learning lessons about this important sector as it quickly develops.

Join us at the webinar to learn how REHAP is strengthening the bioeconomy. Register here!

This webinar was rescheduled from 8 May due to technical issues.

10 May 2019

Commission calls for bioeconomy strategies to be expanded and implemented

Under the future Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), the European Commission will not approve the national strategic plan of a member state that does not include the promotion of the bioeconomy in agriculture, the EU’s farming Commissioner Phil Hogan said on Thursday (25 April).

“The bioeconomy is a very important subject that requires EU-wide action and it is now stating explicitly as part of the 9 EU objectives” of the reformed CAP, Hogan said.

The EU Commissioner for agriculture and rural development was answering a question from EURACTIV.com at the conference Our Forest, Our Future in Brussels last Friday (26 April).

Through national strategic plans laid down in the proposed CAP, all member states will outline how they want to meet these 9 EU-wide objectives, including the promotion of the bioeconomy, using the CAP tools.

Hogan pointed out that EU countries are required to submit proposals on how to expand the bioeconomy’s role in agriculture and in all bio-based industries.

According to the EU’s agriculture boss, EU member states will have more freedom under the Commission’s proposal for the future CAP. This freedom will allow them to focus on their bioeconomies and help them meet the higher ambitions of the future policy on the environment and climate change.

“A sustainable bioeconomy is also hugely important for reducing emissions in the EU,” said Hogan, mentioning bioenergy’s contribution to help meeting renewable energy targets for 2020 and 2030, but also to substitute fossil-based materials in sectors like construction, plastics or textiles.

EU and national strategies

The Commission’s bioeconomy strategy was initially conceived seven years ago as a way to encourage Europe to be less dependent on petroleum. The updated strategy presented last October expanded its action plan to develop a sustainable and circular bioeconomy from mainly biofuels to any kind of bio-based industry.

Now the strategy looks more at the circular economy as well as sustainability. The three goals of the strategy, as stated by the Commission, are to strengthen and scale up the bio-based sectors, unlock investments and markets, deploy local bioeconomies rapidly across the whole of Europe and understand the ecological boundaries of the bioeconomy.

The Commission’s action plan also promotes the uptake of national bioeconomy strategies, setting up tools such as the European bioeconomy policy support facility, as well as a European Bioeconomy forum, in order to help EU countries develop their own strategy.

“We need a bioeconomy strategy that can be implemented in every member state,” Hogan said.

Currently, only Germany, France, Spain, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Finland and Malta have dedicated national bioeconomy strategies at the national level. Six EU countries have strategies under development while the remaining 13 have other policy initiatives or related strategies at a national level.

Additional income for farmers

“For the past 4 years at the EU level, I have put the bioeconomy centrally in the agricultural policy discussions of the future,” said Hogan.

According to Hogan, the European Parliament agrees that the bioeconomy can be a win-win for farmers and cooperatives when it comes to creating jobs in rural areas and  providing a new source of income for farmers.

However, the three reports that together form the entire CAP structure were approved only by the agriculture committee of the European Parliament, without reaching the plenary stage.

It means that it will be up to the Conference of Presidents of the next Parliament, after the EU elections in May, to decide whether to forward the draft report directly to the plenary or ask the next agriculture committee to start from scratch instead.

“We have tried our best to get member states and farmers focused on this for the future,” Hogan said. “And now, for the first time, I think we are succeeding.”

Hogan hopes member states will make their own initiatives and that the discussions with the Romanian presidency will be successful and help farmers and producers see the potential of the bioeconomy.

(Article sourced from: www.euractiv.com)