New research consortium explores deriving new products from waste

A new $10.9 million research consortium led by the University of Adelaide is exploring ways to turn agricultural waste into new products.

The consortium, Agricultural Product Development, will bring together 18 partners to develop high-value products from agricultural waste, including nine South Australian-based companies from the agriculture and food sector, and another nine national and international academic institutions and industry partners.

The South Australian government is contributing $4 million over four years through its Research Consortia Program, while the University of Adelaide is contributing $2.3 million.

Professor Vincent Bulone, the lead investigator of the consortium and director of Adelaide Glycomics at the University’s Waite campus, said the potentials of using agricultural waste to generate high-value products and create new post-farm gate industries had not yet been fully explored.

“Our agricultural and horticultural industries generate abundant waste biomass, which is currently disposed of at a cost to the producer, or only a low return,” Bulone said.

“But there are compounds we can derive from this waste – a range of different biomolecules – that have high-value potential applications for their structural or health properties.”

Some biomolecules that can be derived from South Australian crop waste show anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, anti-cancer or gut-health properties, while others provide mechanical strength or texturising properties in food, structural materials, lubricants and cosmetics.

Examples include deriving skin care products from anthocyanins in apples and cherries, and chitosan, diabetic medicines using sulforaphane from Brassica vegetables, and composite materials derived from cellulose.

The consortium will focus on attracting students and researchers and providing training across multiple disciplines and industrial specialisations. It will build on the work of Adelaide Glycomics, a carbohydrate analytical facility at the Waite campus, and make use of other, complementary analytical activities provided by the Adelaide Proteomics Centre at the University’s North Terrace campus.

“This Consortium draws together a unique combination of research expertise, facilities, industry know-how and resources,” said Professor Mike Brooks, University of Adelaide deputy vice-chancellor.