$14m project to turn livestock waste into profitable bioproducts

SUBSCRIBE to our fortnightly e-newsletter to receive more stories like this. QUT's Professor Ian O'Hara: Prof. O'Hara will helm the research on a $14m national project that aims to boost Australia’s burgeoning biofuels and bioproducts industry and advance the global war on waste.

A major waste-to-bioproducts project, to be led by researchers at Queensland University of Technology (QUT) and managed by Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA), aims to develop profitable processes for turning livestock industry waste into bioenergy and valuable bioproducts.

Ian O’Hara, bioproducts expert and a professor in QUT’s Science and Engineering Faculty, will helm the $14m project, with $6m in funding from the Australian Government Department of Agriculture and Water Resources’ Rural R&D for Profit program said a further $8m in cash and in-kind support from 18 project partners.

“In this project we expect to develop the technologies and business models for better management of livestock wastes – turning them from a cost to a valuable resource for the industry,” Professor O’Hara said in June 2017.

“We’ll be investigating how beef, dairy and pork wastes, which could include processing wastes and manure, can make products such as animal feeds, fertilisers, fuels, chemicals, and plastics for specialty applications.

“The technologies being developed will result in increased revenue and reduced costs for producers, leading to increased profitability and sustainability.”

According to Professor O’Hara, the $14m funding would enable a national approach to technology development, as would the involvement of 19 project partners, including meat processors, utility companies and technology developers.

Other research partners, he said, would include the University of Queensland (UQ), University of Southern Queensland (USQ), Western Australia’s Murdoch University and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, based in the north-western US state of Washington.PNNL chemist Molly O'Hagan and her colleagues explore nature-inspired catalysts in the lab; bio-engineers at PNNL, one of 18 partners in the QUT-led project, work with agricultural, animal, even human waste to produce fuels and high-value chemicals.

Professor O’Hara said the $6m in federal funding showed great foresight on the part of the Australian Government and MLA that would have long-term benefits to the livestock industry, the environment and society in general.

"The development of waste to bioproduct technologies is potentially worth over $100 million per year to livestock industries,” he contended.

“A bioproducts industry will create jobs, particularly in regional Australia. And turning waste into valuable products is an excellent move to improve the environment.”

Professor O’Hara, a principal research scientist at QUT’s Centre for Tropical Crops and Biocommodities, was appointed as Queensland’s Biofutures Industry Envoy by the state government in 2016.

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