|9 november 2015|

Two innovative food and drink projects have been given the green light after winning a new Interface Food & Drink competition.

Designed for groups of food and drink companies wanting to tackle some of their business challenges collectively by working with academics from Scottish universities and research institutions, the competition has awarded £92,000.

A syndicate of farms will partner with four universities to research methods of converting their waste into clean gases and liquid fuels, while a soft fruit farming group will work with academics, a craft distillery and a sweet manufacturer to develop novel techniques for alcohol and fuel production from their waste.

Helen Pratt, project manager at Interface Food & Drink, said: “The entries showed particular strength and expertise in how the businesses and academics would work together and the immediate and longer-term benefits to the food and drink industry and beyond.

“In today’s farming environment, there is increasing pressure to reduce waste, so it’s interesting that both winning entries are for projects which aim not only to reduce waste, but also to convert it into a valued commodity which will benefit the environment and economy.”

The two winners were chosen from a strong field of entries. Both will begin six month-long projects, which could have far-reaching environmental and economic benefits.

The Farm Waste Utilisation Group comprises farms in Forfar, Inverurie, Peterhead and Dingwall, and academics from University of Glasgow, University of the West of Scotland, Robert Gordon University and University of Strathclyde.

The project will explore converting farm waste into clean gases and liquid fuels through an advanced gasification process. It was awarded £50,000 by Interface Food & Drink.

Group member, Matthew Steel, of Craignathro Farms Ltd, Forfar, said: “This is an exciting opportunity to look at how we could use wastes such as manure, woods and biomass residues to produce heat and electricity.

“If farms could turn waste into renewable energy sources through gasification, it would have huge economic and environmental benefits. Apart from the obvious savings on energy bills, it would solve the headache of waste going to landfill.”

The second group, a syndicate of soft fruit growers, won just over £42,000 to investigate producing alcohol from second grade fruit using sugar-rich by-products from the production of tablet as well as turning food waste into fuel, fertiliser and chemicals. Working with a craft distillery and a confectionery manufacturer, this group will be collaborating with academics from Edinburgh Napier University, Heriot Watt University and University of Edinburgh.

William Houstoun, general manager of Angus Growers, said:“As fruit farmers supplying the major supermarkets we are always looking for ways to reduce waste, add value to what we produce and create good news to make the fruit we grow even more attractive to our customers.

“We are delighted at this opportunity to collaborate with academics from Scotland’s universities to develop techniques to turn low value and waste fruit into useful and exciting products.”

It is the first time a competition has been run for groups rather than individual businesses and builds on Interface Food & Drink’s approach to establishing Common Interest Groups, such as the Scottish Craft Distillers Association and the Scottish Rapeseed Oil Group.