These raw materials will bring a new purpose for agricultural production

March 2015 has been an interesting month for agriculture. It seems that an increasing number of companies are currently looking into valorisation possibilities of agricultural waste streams (e.g. production of biobased chemicals and materials). Only in the last week, 4 different meetings with 4 different companies were held, all focusing on biobased production from agricultural waste materials. Interesting products were polyhydroxybutyrate (PHB), methanol, hydrogen, butanol, polylactate (PLA), et cetera. It has been like this for the last month: every week, new projects are discussed and started. It is not only a trend at universities (we have seen that for a while now), but SME’s as well as larger companies come up with interesting developing plans. If I’m not mistaking, this will bring a whole new purpose for agricultural production. It might even be an opportunity for agriculture in developing countries to develop faster, as waste materials also gains more value.

Genetically engineered bacteria

In the first week of March, while our team received guests from Canada for more than a week (they were here for the market introduction of biobased, non-toxic and biodegradable lubricants and paint removers), a chemical giant BASF announced their commercial production of polytetrahydrofuran (polyTHF) derived entirely from biomass feedstocks. The process hinges on a microbial fermentation of sugars to produce 1,4-butanediol (BDO), which is purified and polymerized. The company uses genetically engineered bacteria to produce and excrete BDO in sufficient quantity and purity. [GMO? Really? Yes. The modified bacteria are separated from the liquid containing the chemical. After purification, no bacteria is present anymore in the product. This way of processing is used in the chemical industries for quite some time now].

Ski boots and skateboards made from agricultural waste?

PolyTHF is primarily used as a component in polyester and polyurethane materials. According to BASF, the bio-based PolyTHF is identical in quality to the petrochemical-based product. The product is mainly applied as a chemical building block for thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU), which is used to make for example parts of ski boots and cable sheathing. Other applications include cast elastomers, which are used, for example, for the production of wheels for skateboards and inline skates. According to BASF, the opportunity to expand the range of products and applications made from renewable raw materials allows them and their partners to further explore the long-term market acceptance of this biobased technology.

Opportunity for renewable raw materials

In the second week of March, in the Dutch province of Limburg, Letters of Intent were signed between a number of SMEs that intent to collaborate with each other in terms of raw materials and waste products. Fermentation of agricultural and food processing waste was also recognized as a possibility for valorization of these streams or reduction of costs.

The collaboration between the companies takes place in the context of the SILVER project, using a methodology that aims to accelerate innovation in the industry. SILVER stands for: Symbiosis in Limburg and Accelerating Realization. The process is in principle very simple: companies from all sectors are brought together in informal workshops with the aim of sharing as much information as possible about raw materials, waste, energy, services, knowledge and other innovative ideas. This provides new forms of cooperation between businesses and institutions.

5 million in savings

The basic idea is simple: to use raw materials and waste products/residual streams that are produced within a company as smart and responsible as possible (and working together on this issue with other entrepreneurs). This will not only contribute to a sustainable future, but also increases profits. Innovation is the foundation for growth: over the past year and a half, the SILVER partnerships already yielded over 5 million in savings. The project started in 2013 and already 70 companies have signed up. A recent workshop floor was good for a whopping 298 matches. Team members of are helping the participants to find solutions for the many hurdles they encounter.

Last week, I saw the same kind of opportunities during those 4 meetings. Locals are working with locals on efficient production of food, feed, chemicals, fuels, energy and biomaterials. This should result in more profitable production chains. I wonder how long it will take before the first benefits of more profitable production chains will start to show an increase of efficient food/energy production in the countries that really need it… don’t you?

Finalists of bio-based material award named

The six finalists of the Bio-based Material of the Year award, presented by the nova-Institute for Ecology and Innovation to those developing new applications and markets for bio-based products (those derived from living organisms), have been named.

The competition focuses on new developments in these areas, which have had (or will have) a market launch in 2014 or 2015.

Six candidates from companies in the United Kingdom, the United States and Germany have been chosen by a jury consisting of representatives of the nova-Institute, the advisory board, and sponsors and partners of the International Conference on Bio-based Materials (which will be held in Cologne between 13-15 April) from 24 submissions, and one winner and two runners up will go on to be awarded a certificate and receive a directory listing on the nova-Institute website.

The six nominated companies and products are:

Bayer MaterialScience ‘Desmodur eco N’

A bio-based polyurethane (made from polyisocyanate based on pentamethylene diisocyanate) cross-linker for high-performance automotive coatings. It enables the production of bio-based polyurethanes for the coating of cars, providing weather resistance, the ‘self-healing’ of superficial scratches and ‘great optical properties’.

EcoTechnilin ‘FibriRock’

A bio-sourced composite for aircraft applications. The lightweight, fast-curing composite is made from flax, basalt yarns, and sugar-based bioresin and is suitable for aircraft and rail applications and will go into production this year in a lightweight galley cart.

Evonik Industries

A bio-based polyamide 12 made from kernel oil 12 – This material can be used in high-performance products such as motor vehicles and large-volume pipes.

HIB Trip Part Solutions ‘Nature 50’

A hemp-based reinforced plastic. The granulate can be used in injection moulding for a range of applications, including those in the automotive sector.

Invista ‘Lycra T 162R Fibre’

A bio-derived spandex made using renewable butanediol. Approximately 70 per cent comes from the renewable resource meaning fabrics and garments can be made with reduced carbon and fossil fuel footprints.

twoBEars ‘bioFila’

A biodegradable polymer based on lignin. The biopolymer compound has optic and haptic properties and can be used for 3D printing.

Each of the six companies will now give a short presentation at the International Conference on Bio-based Materials, and the three winners will be decided by a vote of those attending the conference.


Evonik invests in biobased lubricants

Evonik has closed on an equity investment in Biosynthetic Technologies, LLC (BT), a specialist in biobased lubricants headquartered in Irvine (California, USA). BT has developed and manufactures a new class of bio-based synthetic oils called estolides that are used primarily in the passenger car motor oil and industrial lubricant sectors. Field trials have shown that the technical characteristics of the biobased synthetic oils made by BT are exceptionally good, and include the ability to combat soot buildup in engines, which helps keep fuel consumption low. In addition to Evonik, BP Ventures also participated as a second strategic investor in this current funding round that focuses on growth. BP Ventures as well as Monsanto Company have already invested in previous financing rounds.

“Biosynthetic Technologies leads the way to high-quality sustainable lubricants,” says Dr. Bernhard Mohr, head of Evonik Venture Capital. “In view of the large automotive market and the strong trend towards fuel-economy and sustainability, this is a growing market with a strong fit to Evonik´s oil additives business.”

“We are excited to have Evonik join us as a strategic investor,” says Allen Barbieri, CEO of Biosynthetic Technologies. “In addition to its capital investment, Evonik brings world class manufacturing, R&D and sales & marketing expertise that will expedite our commercialization process.”

Evonik is a leader in the development of technologies for the production of lubricant additives. Its high-performance additives increase both productivity and fuel efficiency. Regional technology centers, modern global manufacturing centers, and a secure and reliable supply chain worldwide enable Evonik’s continuous development of customized solutions for customers anywhere in the world.

Biosynthetic Technologies’ new class of bio-based synthetic oils are made from organic fatty acids found in plant oils and have numerous uses in the lubricant, chemical, and cosmetics industries. They are biodegradable, nontoxic and they do not bio-accumulate in marine life. BT holds a broad patent portfolio to protect these novel biosynthetic oils that are marketed under the trade name LubriGreen® Biosynthetic Oils.

BT’s lubricants are now being tested and certified by many of the world’s largest lubricant manufacturers who want to use these as components in their existing or new motor oil and industrial lubricant product lines.

Within its venture capital activities Evonik plans to invest a total of €100 million in highly promising start-ups with break-through technologies and leading specialist venture capital funds. These investments will focus on Europe, the U.S. and Asia. Partnering with innovative start-up companies supplements Evonik’s approach of open innovation and creates excellent opportunities for accelerating the development of new businesses and opening up future growth fields.

Source: Evonik

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