The task is split into two parts: 1) conversion of biomass into bio-materials suitable for food applications carried out at the Teagasc Moorepark site and 2) conversion of biomass for non- food applications carried out at NUIG (Galway University).
Following protein extraction from biomass (identified in Task 2, extracted in Task 3), lignocelluloses remain. Lignocellulose generally contains little fermentable monosaccharide sugars. However, both cellulose and hemicellulose can be hydrolysed into simpler sugars, facilitating biotransformation. Using the biorefinery concept, delivered by the current task, a selection of bio-materials will be generated from the waste streams coming from Task 3, i.e., valorisation of residual biomass ‘waste material’ following protein extraction.
For non-food applications, the team at NUIG will utilise anaerobic digestion (AD) to create useable fuel (biogas/methane) with low carbon footprint and low sludge discharge. This sludge is suitable for use as a fertilizer, either directly or following processing to a high-quality fertilizer and thus will be transferred to Task 2 later in the project to create circularity by using it in Grassland and Crop trials. A parallel objective is to optimise the AD process to increase production of low cost, high value volatile fatty acids (VFAs) from the residual biomass after protein extraction (in Task 3). Short or medium chain VFAs (scVFAs, mcVFAs) have extensive commercial applications in the production of fuels, biochemicals, feeds and pharmaceuticals, especially when contrasted with traditional chemical VFA production (which utilises increasingly costly and non-renewable petrochemical raw materials). If successful, these findings may be used in the models generated in Task 1, i.e. as part of a sustainability goal / indicator.
The research team aim to achieve this goal (in collaboration with Task 5) via automated high-throughput bioprocess solutions for screening and optimization, to aid scalability from early process development to pilot scale production (with support from Task 3).