//Agro-industries can boost their competitiveness by turning waste into new by-products

Agro-industries can boost their competitiveness by turning waste into new by-products

18/12/2016. Zaragoza

A European project plans to make use of the agrarian waste created by agri-food industries to produce new bioproducts at times when business is less busy.

Putting their teams and facilities to good use could cut down the cost of starting a new initiative by 20% and bring about savings of € 1.2 million over the first ten years.

Taking advantage of the agro-industry’s seasonal work patterns could give rise to new lines of business based on bioproducts. That is the key objective of the European project AGROinLOG. Among its various aims, the project plans to use agrarian waste to produce competitive fuels in the industrial and/or service sector; provide feedstock for manufacturing furniture; or act as a source of chemical products.

The initiative has been earmarked approximately € 6 million by the European Commission. It involves 15 institutions from 7 European countries, including the Zaragoza Logistics Center, Agroindustrias Pascual Sanz, Cooperativas Agro-alimentarias España, and CIRCE as project coordinator. Together, they will strive to create and optimise new logistics chains and reuse the waste generated in food production.

These new methods will transform waste into a sustainable local resource while at the same time boosting agro-industry competitiveness at times when their workload is lower. These industries will be able to make the most of their existing facilities and teams to pursue a new line of business and thus mitigate the instability caused by their seasonal patterns. And they can do so using the agrarian waste created by their own activity, or from nearby areas and industries.

This way, agro-industries have the opportunity of working on a different activity for 20% less than it would cost to start it from scratch. In financial terms, the first analyses on pilot agro-industries have shown that the savings achieved could be as high as € 1-2 million over the first ten years. In certain cases, that figure could exceed € 10 million.

These new business models will be put to the test in 3 integrated logistics centres in the industries of cereal (in Sweden), olive oil (in Greece), and fodder (in Spain). In Spain, the Pascual Sanz agro-industry will be deploying new lines of business at its facilities. Their work will range from introducing agrarian sourced pellets onto the energy market to obtaining chemical compounds such as furfural and leuvinic acid from cereal waste, or producing boards.

To achieve this, collaboration with the other partners in the project will be paramount, and technical professionals have been chosen to cover every stage of the new chain. Zaragoza Logistics Center will work on analysing and modelling the new logistical process to ensure the project’s viability. In turn, as well as coordinating the project, CIRCE will be developing different business models and exploitation strategies for agro-industries, as well as verifying the sourcing and quality of their products. These two institutions will work together on defining the environmental, social and economic impact that these initiatives entail. Lastly, Cooperativas Agro-alimentarias de España (the Spanish Agri-Food Co-Operatives association) will take care of disseminating the results obtained and seeking collaboration with other agro-industries so as to encourage replication in other companies. As well as those three pilot plants, specific studies will also be carried out into other activities in an effort to spread this newly acquired knowledge to as many industries as possible. This will include exploring the possibilities that different types of agri-food industries have to offer depending on their current activities, and discovering which processes could be implemented in the future according to the type of product involved, its impact on the market, etc.

Project launch meeting.
Early this month, CIRCE hosted the first project launch meeting at its head office in Zaragoza, welcoming more than 30 professionals from the companies taking part in the consortium. During the meeting, the foundations were laid in order to start working, and certain guidelines were set to be followed throughout the project’s three-and-a-half-year duration.