Browse the SEED libraryFeature your projectWhy Join?Join SEED todaySign in to SEEDSee list of SEED members
Improved Agro-based Production
Left Control
Right Control

Improved Agro-Based Production

Improving the sustainability and efficiency of agricultural production through new practices, products and materials.
Suggested project
BIOrescue transform mushroom compost into valuable bio-based products
A novel biorefinery concept for mushroom compost
News from this sector
Israeli scientists produce bio-plastics from microorganisms that feed on seaweed

Israel-based researchers have developed a new process to produce a polymer that is derived from microorganisms that feed on seaweed.
Stora Enso to support H&M-IKEA-backed sustainability initiative

Finnish pulp and paper specialist Stora Enso has announced that it is going into partnership with furniture company Ikea and fashion giant H&M to create sustainable textiles.
Israeli scientists produce bio-plastics from microorganisms that feed on seaweed (15/01/2019)
Israel-based researchers have developed a new process to produce a polymer that is derived from microorganisms that feed on seaweed.
"Our new process produces 'plastic' from marine microorganisms that completely recycle into organic waste."

Israel-based researchers have developed a new process to produce a polymer that is derived from microorganisms that feed on seaweed. In a statement, scientists from Tel Aviv University (TAU) said that the bio-plastic polymers can be produced without land or freshwater.

The launch of the innovation was the result of a multidisciplinary collaboration between Dr. Alexander Golberg of TAU's Porter School of Environmental and Earth Sciences and Prof. Michael Gozin of TAU's School of Chemistry. Their research was recently published in the journal Bioresource Technology.

"Plastics take hundreds of years to decay. So, bottles, packaging and bags create plastic 'continents' in the oceans, endanger animals and pollute the environment," said Golberg. "Plastic is also produced from petroleum products, which has an industrial process that releases chemical contaminants as a by-product."

He added: "A partial solution to the plastic epidemic is bio-plastics, which don't use petroleum and degrade quickly. But bio-plastics also have an environmental price: To grow the plants or the bacteria to make the plastic requires fertile soil and fresh water, which many countries, including Israel don't have. Our new process produces 'plastic' from marine microorganisms that completely recycle into organic waste."

The issue of plastic pollution in the world's ocean captured the public's imaginations last year.

According to the United Nations, plastic accounts for up to 90% of all pollutants in the world's ocean, yet there are few comparable, environmentally-friendly alternatives to the material.

The researchers harnessed microorganisms that feed on seaweed to produce a bio-plastic polymer called polyhydroxalkanoate (PHA). "Our raw material was multicellular seaweed, cultivated in the sea," Golberg said. "These algae were eaten by single-celled microorganisms, which also grow in very salty water and produce a polymer that can be used to make bio-plastic."

He explained: "There are already factories that produce this type of bio-plastic in commercial quantities, but they use plants that require agricultural land and freshwater. The process we propose will enable countries with a shortage of freshwater, such as Israel, China and India, to switch from petroleum-derived plastics to bio-degradable plastics."

According to Goldberg, the new study could "revolutionise" the world's efforts to clean the oceans, without affecting arable land and without using freshwater.

"We are now conducting basic research to find the best bacteria and algae that would be most suitable for producing polymers for bio-plastics with different properties," Goldberg said.

Stora Enso to support H&M-IKEA-backed sustainability initiative (15/01/2019)
Finnish pulp and paper specialist Stora Enso has announced that it is going into partnership with furniture company Ikea and fashion giant H&M to create sustainable textiles.
"The new fibre that we have developed is both sustainable and produced at a lower cost."

Finnish pulp and paper specialist Stora Enso has announced that it is going into partnership with furniture company Ikea and fashion giant H&M to create sustainable textiles. Stora Enso will be joining the joint venture called "TreetoTextile", which has been in operation since 2014. It is also backed by entrepreneur Lars Stigsson.

TreetoTextile's process involves regenerating renewable forest raw material into a textile fibre, using less energy and chemicals than conventional methods.

The technology has been tested in a pilot line in Sweden and is now to be scaled up with the construction of a demonstration plant at one of Stora Enso's Nordic facilities.

IKEA and H&M plan to use the fibre in their products. However, the main aim is for the entire industry to benefit from this fibre since it can be used in conventional supply chains.

Commenting on Stora Enso joining the initiative, Annica Karlsson, chairman of the board, TreetoTextile, said: "With the help of our new partner, we will be entering an industrialisation phase. The new fibre that we have developed is both sustainable and produced at a lower cost."

In a statement, Stora Enso said it welcomed the chance to join the TreetoTextile partnership and to "contribute to a more sustainable textile production."

"Stora Enso produces dissolving pulp for textiles based on renewable and fully traceable wood from sustainably-managed forests. It will be exciting to participate in the industrialisation of this technology at one of our facilities to meet growing demand," said Markus Mannström, Executive Vice President of the Stora Enso Biomaterials division.

"We welcome Stora Enso to this partnersip. For us, TreetoTextile is a long-term investment as we strongly believe it will contribute to offering our customers even more sustainably-produced products at affordable prices," said Erik Karlsson, investment manager for Sustainable Fashion at H&M group's investment arm.

The news of the TreetoTextile project comes at a time when many fashion houses are putting sustainability at the heart of their business agendas. H&M has set a goal to only use recycled or other sustainably-sourced materials by 2030.

"With Stora Enso as a partner we now add industrial knowledge and deep competence within the cellulose field. This together with existing consumer and textile knowledge as well as an entrepreneurial spirit brings us one step closer to our goal of introducing a new sustainable low-cost fibre for the many people," added Lena Julle, Category Area Manager Textiles at IKEA of Sweden.

3D printed bioplastic: the future of construction? (03/01/2019)
To date, most 3D printed buildings have been built from concrete. Could bioplastics be a more sustainable option?
Additive manufacturing, or 3D printing, is a major part of the fourth industrial revolution and it will transform the construction sector, according to Zoubeir Lafhaj, an expert in the future of construction, from the graduate engineering school École Centrale de Lille, in France. "3D printing is a formidable tool to introduce robotization into construction, and other kinds of innovation," he explains. Lafhaj adds that it will also help tackle environmental issues such as reducing waste.

Currently most 3D printed construction projects use concrete, but Lafhaj is certain that is not the future. He says we need to move towards materials that use less energy, have a lower carbon footprint and produce less waste. Plastic is a good alternative because it is more environmentally friendly than concrete, Lafhaj says, but it also has another advantage. In dense urban environments, such as cities like Tokyo, it can be much easier and cheaper to import and move around. "In some areas in Japan there are not a lot of streets where they can construct new buildings," he explains. "They need new materials that can be brought in without big machines."

Examples of 3D printed construction using bioplastics can be seen on the canal-side of Dus Architecture in Amsterdam. "We have entire 3D printed tiny houses, all kinds of staircases and walls standing here," says Hedwig Heinsman, co-founder of the company. "It looks like a modern-day ruin."

A full-sized, 700m² canal house is being 3D printed out of bio-based plastic on the site. One day the structure will be the firm's offices and workspace. But this project is what the architects call "research & design by doing" hence all the small prototype houses and bits of buildings.

The company has also tested its additive manufacturing technology elsewhere in Amsterdam. In 2015 it unveiled an 8m² urban cabin that had been made using a black bio-based plastic - complete with printed outdoor bath tub. And they printed a massive 3D façade for the building that hosted the Netherland's 6-month EU presidency in 2016.

Heinsman says that one of the major advantages of this type of construction is that it produces very little waste. "On an average building project you have about 25 per cent material waste," she explains. "With printing we really only use the material that we actually need."

And if you make a mistake? The plastic can be shredded and reused.

The plastic being used to create the canal house is more than 50 per cent bio-based (from linseed oil). An enormous printer heats it to produce streams of molten polymers and then layers them on top of each other to create the desired shape. The machine can construct building elements that are up to 5m tall.

Once finished, these large segments are slotted together to create the final structure. "It is really done like a conventional building, because a conventional building is built with lots of different components - you have staircases, you have columns, you have walls - the difference is we produce those components with 3D printing technology," explains Heinsman.

Ultimately the architects see additive manufacturing being used to mass produce, customisable prefab architecture. "Prefab is a great way of building because it is fast and clean, but it is also very standardised," says Heinsman. "What we now offer is the advantage of large scale industrial production with the advantage of tailor made production, because we print with robots and bio-plastics.

As well as creating whole buildings, printable bio-based plastics could also be used to help make specific components. Large construction and infrastructure projects, like bridges, often feature trusses - frameworks of beams that support the structure. With steel trusses one way to hold the framework together is to use resin joints that the steel beams can slot into - similar to the plastic joints used to hold the poles together in some tents and marques.

These joints are usually formed using metal moulds, but these are expensive to make and are often thrown away at the end of each project.

The EU project Barbara is working to create bio-based plastics that are able to withstand the 140°C temperatures used to cure the resin, and can be 3D printed. These could then be used to print truss joint moulds, explains project coordinator Lidia Garcia. "If we can produce something with the required properties that can bio-degrade, after small batch production, it would be more sustainable," she says.

To develop bio-based plastics with the necessary thermal properties, the team are working to create plastic additives from food waste, such as broccoli, lemon, almond shells and carrots. "It is a way to boost the circular economy and valorise waste - we throw away a lot of food and a lot of crops," Garcia concludes.

New Report: global bio-based polyethylene terephthalate market (03/01/2019)
"Global Bio-based Polyethylene Terephthalate Market Size, Market Share, Application Analysis, Regional Outlook, Growth Trends, Key Players, Competitive Strategies and Forecasts, 2018 To 2026" has been added to's offering.
The global bio-PET market is one that is growing fast. It is expected to grow at the CAGR of 20.8 per cent from 2018 to 2026. Bio-PET is witnessing huge demand from various end-use industries such as food & beverages, cosmetics & pharmaceuticals, automotive, textile and so on, according to this latest report.

Traditional bio-PET is made up of 30 per cent bio-based MEG and 70 per cent petroleum-based resins, which has led many companies to invest in the production of bio-based MEG with the aim of eradicating the problem of inconsistent supply of raw material for the development of 100 per cent bio-based PET.

For instance, Avantium has invested in the construction of a bio-MEG demonstration plant in the Netherlands, to ramp up the bio-based mono-ethylene glycol (MEG) production made directly from renewable sugars. Bio-based polyethylene terephthalate can be used in all existing applications of conventional PET, from beverage containers, food containers, non-food containers to films & sheets, moulded parts & components, and fabrics. In 2017, beverage containers accounted for the largest share, followed by films & sheets and food containers. The beverage containers segment, writes the report, will also be the fastest growing application of bio-PET resin during the forecast period.

Rising consumer awareness about the use of green products and government measures to reduce GHG emissions to achieve climate and energy objectives are projected to boost demand for bio-PET over the coming years.

Inhibiting factors to market growth include the high cost of bio-ethylene glycol and the emergence of alternatives such as polyethylene furanoate (PEF).

Food & Beverages held the largest share of bio-based polyethylene terephthalate market by end-use industry in 2017. In the food & beverage industry, bio-PET applications include water packaging, sweet beverages packaging, fruit juice packaging, beer containers, food containers, among others. Bio-PET is also finding increasing application in the automotive industry and the textile end-use industry in line with the ambition to reduce their environment impact across the world.

Geographically speaking, Asia-Pacific dominated the market in 2017 by value and volume. The greatest demand comes from economies such as India and China, owing to booming food & beverages, textile and automotive industries; a rapidly expanding middle class with high disposable income; and rapid economic growth. North America closely follows Asia-Pacific region owing to technical innovation, rising consumer awareness about the use of more sustainable products, and strict government & environment regulations aimed at reducing GHG emissions.

Carbolice announces official launch of Evanesto (03/01/2019)
Carbolice have announced the launch of their innovative enzymated masterbatch called Evanesto, which offers a totally biodegradable solution for PLA.
A French start-up created in 2016 made the formal announcement during a presentation at the European Bioplastics Conference which took place in Berlin.

The masterbatch, in a concentration of less than 5 per cent, is added to a compound with a high content of PLA, which, said presenters Clementine Arnault and Sophie Macedo, causes the PLA to become suitable for home composting. The enzyme masterbatch has been engineered to become activated only in certain conditions, explained Clementine. "It will become active at a certain pH, temperature and humidity - and these are not conditions under which it is stored and processed. They are the conditions found in a domestic compost heap."

The company plans to work on the scale-up in 2019 and look for partnerships in 2020, for the commercial deployment of the product in non-food applications.

"We are looking for strong collaborations to make the technology available," said Sophie Macedo.

Carbolice is the result of an alliance between Limagrain Céréales Ingrédients, a global seed company, CARBIOS, a green chemistry company developing enzymatic technologies, and the investment fund SPI, managed by Bpifrance. The company also produces a range of compounds, partially biobased, 100 per cent biodegradable and compostable, specially designed for thin film applications.

Don't quibble with a gribble: Why a curious crustacean could hold secret to making renewable en (03/01/2019)
Discovery brings researchers a step closer to identifying cheaper and more sustainable tools for converting wood into low carbon fuel.
Scientists studying the digestive system of a curious wood-eating crustacean have discovered it may hold the key to sustainably converting wood into biofuel.

Gribble are small marine invertebrates that have evolved to perform an important ecological role eating the abundant supplies of wood washed into the sea from river estuaries.

They can also be something of a marine menace, consuming the wood of boats and piers and causing considerable damage in the process.

Until now, the question of how gribble break through lignin - the highly resistant coating that wraps around the sugar polymers that compose wood - has been a mystery.

Promising alternative
The team of scientists, led by the University of York, studied the hind gut of gribble, and discovered that Hemocyanins - the same proteins that make the blood of invertebrates blue - are crucial to their ability to extract sugars from wood.

The discovery brings researchers a step closer to identifying cheaper and more sustainable tools for converting wood into low carbon fuel - a promising alternative to fossil fuels like coal and oil.

Hemocyanins are a group of proteins better known for their role in transporting oxygen in invertebrates in a similar way to haemoglobin in animals. While haemoglobin binds oxygen through its association with iron atoms, giving blood its red colour; hemocyanins do this with copper atoms producing a blue colour.

Oxygen is a highly reactive chemical, and gribble have harnessed the oxidative capabilities of hemocyanins to attack the lignin bonds that hold the wood together.

Sterile digestive system
The research, which involved teams from the Universities of York, Portsmouth, Cambridge and Sao Paulo, has revealed that treating wood with hemocyanins enables more than double the amount of sugar to be released - the same amount that can be released with expensive and energy consuming thermochemical pre-treatments currently used in industry.

Professor Simon McQueen-Mason, from the Department of Biology at the University of York, who led the research team, said: "Gribble are the only animal known to have a sterile digestive system. This makes their method for wood digestion easier to study than that of other wood-consuming creatures such as termites, which rely on thousands of gut microbes to do the digestion for them."

"We have found that gribble chew wood into very small pieces before using hemocyanins to disrupt the structure of lignin. GH7 enzymes, the same group of enzymes used by fungi to decompose wood, are then able to break through and release sugars."

With pressure mounting for global action to be taken on climate change, many countries are rapidly trying to de-carbonise by switching to renewable energy sources such as biofuels.

Woody plant biomass is the most abundant renewable carbon resource on the planet, and, unlike using food crops to make biofuels, its use doesn't come into conflict with global food security.

Co-author of the paper, Professor Neil Bruce, from the Department of Biology, said: "In the long term this discovery may be useful in reducing the amount of energy required for pre-treating wood to convert it to biofuel.

"The cellulase-enhancing effect of the haemocyanin was equivalent to that of thermochemical pre-treatments used in industry to allow biomass hydrolysis, suggesting new options for bio-based fuel and chemicals production."

Lead author of the report, Dr Katrin Besser, added: "It is fascinating to see how nature adapts to challenges and this discovery adds to evidence that haemocyanins are incredibly versatile and multi-functional proteins."

Primary source
Secondary source