The European Commission today announced €22 million in funding for a new bio-economy research project to be led by Glanbia Ireland. The project, called AgriChemWhey, will receive €22 million in funding from the Bio-Based Industries Joint Undertaking (BBI JU) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme.
It is the first dairy industry project to be awarded funding under the programme. The overall value of the project is €30 million with the balance of funding coming from the partners involved.
The project aims to explore the development of a new state-of-the-art, bio-refinery at Lisheen, Co Tipperary with a world-first process for converting by-products from the dairy industry into high value bio-based products including biodegradable plastics.
AgriChemWhey is based on groundbreaking technology developed and patented by Glanbia Ireland, in collaboration with University College Dublin and Trinity College Dublin. It builds on previous research programmes funded by Enterprise Ireland and research carried out within the Science Foundation Ireland funded Advanced Materials and BioEngineering Research (AMBER) centre.
The AgriChemWhey project will take low value by-products from the dairy processing industry –excess whey permeate (WP) and delactosed whey permeate (DLP) - and convert them into cost competitive, sustainable lactic acid. Lactic acid can then be used in value-added bio-based products for growing global markets, including biodegradable plastics, bio-based fertiliser and minerals for human nutrition.
Glanbia Ireland hopes it will provide both the dairy industry and wider society with an opportunity for greater resource efficiency - less food waste, more products from the same starting material (milk), and integration of food and non-food material production.
Speaking at the launch, Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed said, "I congratulate Glanbia and all the Irish partners involved in this ground-breaking award. Innovation is a key theme of the Food Wise 2025 strategy for the sustainable growth of the agri-food sector. Projects such as AgriChemWhey will strengthen the environmental sustainability of the sector, while offering new opportunities for rural employment and development."
Director General of Science Foundation Ireland and Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government of Ireland, Professor Mark Ferguson added, "I am delighted that Glanbia is leading this project and I hope that other Irish based industries are encouraged by their success to lead and win additional research projects of scale from the EU programmes. The technology garnered from this research will place Ireland at the cutting edge of sustainable agricultural processing, and provide an excellent test bed for the roll-out of new and innovative technologies in the dairy sector."