A new project has been launched by Australian food researchers to develop cost-effective ways to extract compounds from grape skins, olive leaves, cartilage and cow hides – agricultural and food industry waste – for use in health-enhancing food and nutraceuticals.
Working with $7m government funding, this three-year project involves CSIRO’s Food Futures Flagship and Monash and Melbourne Universities. It could help make healthy ingredients cheaper, thereby reducing food production costs. The plan is to license the technological developments to the Australian agri-food industry to help it carve out an advantage in the international food, feed and nutraceutical markets.
For example, dermatan sulphate which is extracted from cow hides is reported to have anti-inflammatory properties and inhibit the formation of blood clots, says Dr Bruce Lee, Director of Food Futures Flagship.
The aim is to develop environmentally-acceptable extraction techniques in the laboratory. The resulting bioactives will then be tested and the production processes optimised to meet industry needs.
Useful ingredients are being developed from NZ resources. For instance, Wellington-based Keratec is working with an Australian company, Australian Biotechnologies, to commercialise its patented bone graft technology that uses wool proteins to repair bones. Among the applications for the technology are bone graft and fixation devices, wound dressings, adhesives, bioplastics and fibres. Likewise the Grape Seed Extract Company uses the ‘left overs’ from the New Zealand wine industry to make an antioxidant-rich compound.
The UK’s Leatherhead Food International is also planning a collaborative project to identify plant foods containing compounds that have a specified biological activity, and find alternative uses for waste materials.