New markets for the agricultural processing industry: bio-based raw materials

The agricultural processing industry handles seasonal supplies of raw materials for food and animal feed production. This means that many entrepreneurs in this industry are not able to make optimal use of their machines and storage facilities. The goal of this European demonstration project AGROinLOG is to use this overcapacity for the production of new bio-based raw materials.

Wageningen Food & Biobased Research is one of the partners in the Horizon 2020 project that focuses on the integration of non-food chains in the existing food and animal feed activities of agro-entrepreneurs. Bert Annevelink is the project leader for Wageningen Food & Biobased Research, the Dutch research partner of the project, which includes 15 partners from 8 countries. “We deliver a practical and theoretical contribution to the development of new, integrated value chains. Food and bio-based raw material chains come together in the Integrated Biomass Logistic Centres (IBLCs). We examine the possibilities of utilising unused production capacity for the processing of alternative raw materials, such as residual streams from food crops or non-food crops.”

The concept of IBLCs is interesting for several reasons, explains Annevelink: “Existing facilities are utilised more efficiently, which reduces the cost for businesses. In addition, more market opportunities arise for businesses, thanks to the creation of new value chains. And because raw materials are being used optimally, strain on the environment is reduced.”

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Demonstration projects

The AGROinLOG partners are working on three demonstration projects. In the first project, Spanish animal feed producer Agroindustrial Pascual Sanz will start to use downtime in the factory for the processing of cereal straw, corn stalks, and grasses originating from farmland in the immediate area. Two types of pellets will be produced as a result: one for use in energy generation and other that will form the basis for the production of bio-based composites. The second demo project will take place in Greece. There, olive oil producer NUTRIA will start to use prunings for the production of non-food products such as biofuels, chipboard, and bio-based chemicals. Finally, in Sweden, the company Landmännen will create products such as bio-ethanol from local straw.

Alternatives for fossil resources

The project started in 2017 and will run until May 2020. At that time, in addition to the three demo projects, usable case studies for six sectors will have to have been developed: seeds, olive oil, wine, cereals, sugar, and animal feed. “The goal is to demonstrate that it is feasible for agricultural processing businesses to produce high-quality and affordable bio-based raw materials as alternatives to fossil resources.”