Accessibility statement

Making the most of agricultural waste

Posted on 21 January 2014

Chemists from York have teamed up with an East Yorkshire firm on two projects exploring the extraction of valuable natural chemicals from agricultural waste

Cottingham based Advanced Extraction Technology (AET), which specialises in using “green” technologies to extract natural chemicals from plant sources, has turned to York’s scientific expertise for its latest research projects.

The beauty of these projects is that we are not only finding high-value applications for natural chemicals derived from wastes, but we are also applying “green chemistry” to do this, ie not using hazardous chemicals and applying simple, environmentally benign technologies.

Professor James Clark

The first project has seen the firm team up with the Biorenewables Development Centre (BDC), based at York Science Park, to investigate a new source for biofuels.

AET is also working with the Green Chemistry Centre of Excellence (GCCE) at the University of York, focusing on anti-oxidants and anti-inflammatories The project with the BDC involves AET using super-heated water technology to convert an agricultural waste material, currently used as a low-value animal feed, as a potential raw material for bio-fuel production.

Expert staff at the BDC will then use their scale-up facilities to develop processes with the aim of turning the material into a bio-fuel.

Dr Fabien Deswarte, business development unit manager at the BDC, said: “Exploring this type of reuse, or waste valorisation, is of great importance, particularly as it offers an alternative source of biofuel to food crops, which is a hot topic of debate and concern. Looking at uses for ‘wastes’ is just one of the ways the BDC is working towards a circular economy, and we are thrilled to be working with AET on this project.”

In its second project, AET has signed a collaborative research agreement with the GCCE to investigate extracting potentially valuable polyphenols from citrus waste.

Bosses at AET say this waste is available in large quantities, for example from the juicing industry, but currently has little commercial value and is primarily used to add bulk to animal feed.

Both projects have been made possible through funding at the BDC and the GCCE from the European Regional Development Fund, which is available to eligible small to medium-sized businesses in Yorkshire and Humber.