WITH as much of 40 per cent of SA's primary production often ending up as waste, a new research consortium at the University of Adelaide could turn some of this into high value products.
Among some of the projects expected are sunscreen from mushroom waste, skincare products from apples and berries and high-tech materials from the stalks of Brussels sprouts.
The Research Consortium Program for Agricultural Production Development was officially launched yesterday at the Waite campus, with Innovation and Skills Minister David Pisoni in attendance.
Consortium director Vincent Bulone said there was opportunity to turn high volumes of waste into high value products.
"Up to 40pc of the total harvest of SA's primary production can end up as waste, sometimes left to rot in the field or turned into low value products such as compost or animal feed," he said.
"But all of this food waste contains compounds that have high-value potential applications.
"Some can act as prebiotics or anti-oxidants; some have anti-inflammatory or anti-microbial properties; others, in particular carbohydrates, provide mechanical strength and texturising properties in food, lubricants, cosmetics and structural materials.
"We plan to increase the value of agricultural waste and create new post-farmgate industries worth over $100 million a year to SA."
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The research consortium brings together some of the best scientists from many fields across the University of Adelaide, with a total of 18 partners - nine South Australian-based agriculture and food sector companies, and another nine national and international academic institutions and industry partners.
Mr Pisoni said the consortium has been supported with a $4 million grant through the Research Consortia Program.
"Science and research are of enormous value to our economy, our society and critical to SA's prosperity," he said.
"That's why the government has supported research and commercialisation with a cohesive entrepreneurship and innovation system to ensure we have a focus on growing research excellence and startup communities.
"Industries like agtech are driving economic growth and creating new, knowledge-intensive jobs."
There is already potential to use some of these waste products to replace plastics with one project trialling cellulose molecules from waste Brussels sprout stalks and other biomass as replacements for glass fibres in filtration systems and plastic materials.
There is also a plan to extra vitamin D, beta-glucans and chitosan from mushroom waste for use in nutraceuticals and sunscreen materials, while there is hope anthocyanins from apples and berries can be isolated and identified to use in skincare formulations and other health-promoting products
"Our research will cover the entire value chain from our local growers to manufacturers of food products and beverages, skincare products, and green materials," Professor Bulone said.
"The focus on applied product development and its web of local, national and international partners will create spin-off companies and jobs to commercialise new, high-value products from existing waste streams."
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