Converting bloodmeal into a biopolymer that can be extruded like a petrochemical plastic
Hamilton-based Aduro Biopolymers has devised a method for making bio-plastic out of blood meal. The product has a range of exciting uses, some of them back into the meat processing industry.
Aduro is a joint venture between the University of Waikato’s technology transfer company WaikatoLink, and Wallace Corporation.
Aduro was formed in late 2012 after several years of research led by chemical engineer and senior lecturer Dr Johan Verbeek. Aduro holds patents in several countries for Novatein ™, a method and process to convert bloodmeal into a thermoformable biopolymer capable of being processed using conventional plastics industry equipment.
The company’s focus is looking for commercial opportunities that transform primary industry byproducts, like bloodmeal, into product applications that solve unique problems within businesses and particular industry sectors. Aduro secured investment from Wallace Corporation, one of the country’s biggest animal rendering firms, in February 2013.
Wallace Corporation now holds a 50.4% per cent stake in the company, with the balance being owned by WaikatoLink, the University of Waikato’s technology transfer organisation.
Aduro CEO Darren Harpur says the idea behind Novatein ™ came from looking to find new uses for meat industry by-products that didn’t require a large capital investment.
The basic idea is that plastics are made from polymers. Bloodmeal is mostly protein which in its simplest form is a polymer.
Aduro has developed a way to use bloodmeal as a feedstock for thermoplastic polymer production. Thermoplastic polymers become pliable or moldable above a specific temperature and solidify when they are cooled.
The polymer produced by Aduro is called Novatein ™ and it falls into a polymer category called biopolymers – which means it’s a polymer produced by a living organism.
Generally speaking, biopolymers are intended to have a short life. They are designed to breakdown in ecological systems using sunlight, moisture and microbial activity. Novatein is sensitive to moisture which makes it an ideal polymer for the manufacture of a number of devices used in the meat processing sector.
Darren Harpur says the manufacturing process involves adding water and various agents to the blood meal sourced from rendering companies, that alter its protein structure. The “slurry” then goes into an extruder that processes it into plastic granules that will be sold as Novatein.
The product offers a much “greener” alternative to regular plastics made from petrochemicals.
Darren says one of the challenges faced by meat processing companies is plastic contamination in the rendering process.
In the slaughter of animals for consumption, care is taken to make sure no fecal contamination gets onto the meat during processing. Similarly meat processors make sure that stomach contents also stay away from contact with the carcass. There are a range of plastic products which are used – a rectal plug which keeps out faecal contamination and also a weasand clip (the clip used to seal the esophagus during slaughter so stomach contents don’t leak out).
Most of the products used are plastic. One of the challenges for the industry is keeping that plastic out of the rendering chain after they’ve been used.
In November 2012 Aduro began a research and development programme in partnership with Meat & Livestock Australia to develop a Novatein formulation for products to help address those problems.
The advantage is that since the Novatein product is a biopolymer, there’s none of the usual problems associated with plastic disposal.
The result of that research and development is a rectal plug developed in partnership with a Sydney based company. Aduro has developed, trialed and tested over 10,000 of these plugs in meat processing plants in New Zealand and Australia. The plug has been shown to reduce fecal contamination rates in sheep processing.
They also believe the same product can be used with the processing of bobby calves and goats.
With further development they believe Novatein can be formulated to make weasand clips which prevent “ingest” coming in contact with the meat.
Aduro has plans to commission a Novatein™ pilot production facility in New Zealand and to make the plug for the New Zealand and export market. They expect to be supplying Novatein products to the local market and Australia in 2016.
R & D with the meat processing and rendering companies has led Aduro to look at innovative research and development initiatives amongst research institutions and universities around the globe.
In 2015 Aduro partnered with Eastern Bioplastics in Virginia for the commercialisation of their Feathersorb™ oil absorbent product range made from refined poultry feathers .
Darren says they’re negotiating with the Fats and Proteins Research Foundation for access rights to renderable gloves and bin liners developed out of a sponsored research project between FPRF and Clemson University.
Wallace Corp currently processes a large amount of poultry waste – including feathers at their Waitoa plant.