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Bioplastics from fruit and vegetable by-products

The TRANSBIO research consortium, formed by 16 research bodies and national and international firms, such as CNTA as the technological expert in fermentation processes and industrial microbiology, met recently to discuss the state of research and current development. The meeting took place in Bremerhaven, Germany, where TTZ, one of the project's partners, is based.

At the meeting, TRANSBIO's partners learned that current research is focusing on defining the optimal conditions for fermentation to optimise performance in fermentation processes and maximise profitability in the production of plastic biopolymers, succinic acid and enzymes from vegetable by-products.

TRANSBIO's final goal is to come up with a global and integral strategy to promote vegetable by-products in the production of compounds of interest, not only for the food sector, but also for producers of cosmetics, plastics, etc. This makes it necessary to follow step by step procedures, from the current characterisation and selection of the most adequate by-products to the evaluation of sustainability and life-cycle performance, and finally, their economic viability. The project, which started in December 2011, is funded by the Knowledge Based Bio-Economy network (KBBE 2011) and is expected to last until December 2015.

Some of the partial results highlighted at the meeting encompass the identification and selection of over 50 potential PHB producers. In the field of enzymes, the research teams have focused on finding better fruit and vegetable fungal strains based on their thermal stability and levels of protease and lipase production. A selection of 19 protease-producing and 14 lipase-producing fungi has been made. Thermostable lipases are very demanded in the washing powder market, as they are a kind of enzyme that catalyses the hydrolysis of triglycerides and they are the second most important group of biocatalysts for biotechnological application. The market also prefers microbial lipases over vegetable and animal ones due to their higher performance, easy genetic manipulation and convenience for the control of microorganism growth.

The agri-food industry has the challenge of producing compounds of interest from food by-products. It is an important opportunity, not only to reduce the environmental impact of waste, but also to improve the sustainable management of that biomass. Research, in this sense, is proving to be a valuable tool to transform biological waste into raw materials for industrial processes.


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