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ARS Home » Pacific West Area » Albany, California » Western Regional Research Center » Bioproducts Research » Research » Research Project #439387

Research Project: Zero Waste Agricultural Processing

Location: Bioproducts Research

Project Number: 2030-41000-068-00-D
Project Type: In-House Appropriated

Start Date: Nov 2, 2020
End Date: Nov 1, 2025

Objective:
Food processing losses can represent up to 40 percent of the initial harvest, resulting in significant environmental and economic costs. With stakeholders like the Almond Board of California committed to achieving zero waste, we aim to create viable bioproducts from agricultural byproducts, everything from field to table. The first objective is to add value to a low-value almond processing coproduct, the hulls, which are the bitter, but sugar-rich fruit of the almond tree, by: (1) creating a phenolic-rich sweetener for human consumption; (2) extracting sugar from almond hulls for use in bee diets during the winter, and (3) developing cost-effective carbon feedstock for fermentation that produces bioplastics and specialty chemicals. With a commercial partner we will optimize a novel fermentation process to convert food waste (including hulls) into a commercially-viable family of bioplastics specifically polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHA) using the latest techniques in biotechnology. Objective 1: Develop sustainable technologies toward “zero waste” production by converting food waste, byproducts and under-utilized biomass streams into marketable plastics, specialty chemicals, additives, and active agents. • Sub-objective 1A. Add value to almond hulls. • Sub-objective 1B. Convert food waste and under-valued byproduct streams into bioplastics]. • Sub-objective 1C. Convert pectin-rich citrus peel waste, sugar beet biomass, and almond hulls into aldaric acid and aldonate bioproducts. Objective 2 focuses on optimizing new uses for underutilized agricultural fibers. In collaboration with several commercial partners, we plan to scale up torrefaction (heating biomass to 200-300 'C), to convert tree nut shells and hemp residue into functional fillers that will improve commodity plastics. We also propose to convert underutilized polysaccharides like pectin, alginate, and xylan were isolated from enzyme conversion processes into industrially-relevant environmentally friendly diacids such as aldaric acid for use as solvents in homecare products. Our group has developed a wide array of enzymes to deconstruct plant cell walls. These enzymes will be used, via combinatorial enzymatic strategies and in vitro reaction schemes, to create “designer oligosaccharides” and green chemicals that meet specific marketable needs. Objective 2: Optimize end-use technology for underutilized agricultural fibers, including straw residue, bagasse, and grasses by developing commercially-viable chemicals and nanoparticles for novel applications including nanocomposites. • Sub-objective 2A. Apply thermochemical conversion technology to add value to tree nut shells and underutilized crop residues including hemp. • Sub-objective 2B. Convert biomass into designer oligosaccharides using combinatorial enzyme technology.

Approach:
Objective 1: Develop sustainable technologies toward “zero waste” production by converting food waste, byproducts and under-utilized biomass streams into marketable plastics, specialty chemicals, additives, and active agents. Sub-objective 1A. Add value to almond hulls. Sub-objective 1B. Convert food waste and under-valued byproduct streams into bioplastics. Sub-objective 1C. Convert pectin-rich citrus peel waste, sugar beet biomass, and almond hulls into aldaric acid and aldonate bioproducts. Objective 2: Optimize end-use technology for underutilized agricultural fibers, including straw residue, bagasse, and grasses by developing commercially-viable chemicals and nanoparticles for novel applications including nanocomposites. Sub-objective 2A. Apply thermochemical conversion technology to add value to tree nut shells and underutilized crop residues including hemp. Sub-objective 2B. Convert biomass into designer oligosaccharides using combinatorial enzyme technology.