Protein Recovery from Potato Processing Stream Waste Using Membrane Technology

Wastewater effluent from the food processing industries contains high concentrations of potassium, COD and BOD (chemical and biochemical oxygen demand) caused by the presence of starch, proteins, amino acids and sugars, imposing expensive treatment processes to the companies before discharge to the sewage system.

Starch is recovered using simple separation systems including hydro-cyclones.The waste stream from the potato processing industry particularly contains considerable amounts of these valuable by-products. Starch is recovered using simple separation systems including hydro-cyclones. However, commercially valuable proteins are still wasted. This led to collaboration between Jocelyn Midgley (Simplot Australia) and UNSW School of Chemical Engineering Professor Vicki Chen, Associate Professor Jayashree Arcot and PhD student Shirin Dabestani, to find a solution to extract valuable high quality proteins from wastewater.

For Simplot Australia, the project was a combination of the Value Engineering approach (ie. what is in their waste streams that were not being utilised?), and marrying that with food trends. Protein, particularly plant proteins, is a food trend that has been gathering increasing momentum with consumers. Although the level of protein in this wastewater is low, large volumes of potatoes are processed, thus for Simplot Australia it was an investigation of opportunities.

Membrane technology has been used successfully to recover proteins from dilute waste streams such as cheese whey, utilizing a combination of concentration and diafiltration steps. Using UNSW expertise, this research project focused on vegetable protein recovery and processing. Novel membrane configurations to handle high solid concentrations were explored in addition to conventional membrane processes. Characterization of protein fractions/functionality, membrane fouling, and recovery was incorporated.

When I was invited to become an Industry Partner of the ARC Training Centre for Advanced Technologies in Food Manufacture, , it was an easy choice

Dr Jocelyn Midgley, R&D Manager Simplot Australia Pty Ltd

The plant protein extracted in this project can play a major role in food manufacturing due to its foaming, emulsifying and solubility properties. With a relatively high amino acid index (89%), potato protein can replace animal protein in processed food products due to the associated health benefits.

A membrane rig on a pilot scale including the proposed pre-treatment set-up was designed and built which underwent successful testing and will be used for future trials by the industry.

“When I was invited to become an Industry Partner of the ARC Training Centre for Advanced Technologies in Food Manufacture, it was an easy choice.  First was the quality and capability in membrane science, but also the centre’s ability to marry food (food science and nutrition) with engineering. Food Science and Engineering are often separate degrees, while UNSW Sydney teaches food science and nutrition within the School of Chemical Engineering. When it comes to commercial food manufacturing, a product flows through a mechanical/chemical process. It makes sense to develop candidates with skill sets from both departments. Secondly was the ease we had with Intellectual Property negotiations – it was clear and simple.”

Dr Jocelyn Midgley, R&D Manager Simplot Australia Pty Ltd

 

Partnership in Summary
Partner: Simplot Australia

Type of Partnership: Industry Partner, ARC Training Centre for Advanced Technologies in Food Manufacture

Funding: >$150K in cash and in-kind

Purpose: Explore membrane configurations and conventional membrane processes for protein recovery from potato processing waste streams

Outcome: Once lost vegetable proteins can be reintroduced into new foods

 

 

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