As populations grow in industrialized countries, so does the amount of wasted food. Approximately one-third of all food produced for consumption ends up in landfills, amounting to around $1 trillion USD in economic value and causing significant environmental harm.
A team of researchers from The Ohio State University Department of Food, Agricultural and Biological Engineering (FABE) is determined to make good use of this waste. Led by Professor Katrina Cornish, along with Postdoctoral Scholar Beenish Saba and Professor Thaddeus Ezeji from the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES), the team has been awarded a $60,000 research grant for their project titled "Industrial food processing waste characterization and valorization."
Food waste valorization is the conversion of food waste or by-products into higher-value products that contribute back to the food supply chain. This contributes to the circular economy approach where useful material, once seen as waste, is recycled back into the supply chain to create new products.
The project's focus is on the waste generated by industrial food processing companies, which often incur high disposal costs. The team aims to develop a waste management model that characterizes and transforms different types of industrial food waste into valuable products. By utilizing a lab-scale bioreactor for fermentation, they hope to produce energy-rich biofuels and optimize the process by combining various waste types to enhance product yield.
In collaboration with the J.M. Smucker Company and Niagara Bottling, LLC, the team aims to reduce waste management costs, benefit the environment and create economic opportunities. The project aligns with The Ohio State University's sustainability goals and has the potential to generate additional employment opportunities.
"I am thrilled to receive this grant because to me waste is an unused resource and we need to return as much as possible to manufacturing processes to limit the use of untouched resources," said Cornish.
Funding for this project was provided by a Center for Advanced Processing and Packaging (CAPPS) grant, a National Science Foundation Inter-University Cooperative Research Center (IUCRC). Ohio State, North Carolina State University, and industry partners, including Niagara Bottling, J.M. Smucker, Nestle, and Abbott Nutrition, collaborate annually for CAPPS.
Led by Ohio State, CAPPS is designed to foster partnerships between industry and universities for the mutual benefit of both parties and the advancement of food processing and packaging research. In exchange for funding, industry members direct research at the sites and have access to university expertise and facilities.
The team's efforts to valorize food industry waste will commence in August 2023.
To view the team's full proposal, click here.