Worldwide fresh orange production was estimated at 45.8 million ton per year(www.fas.usda.gov). Around 40% of the fruit weight ends up as production wastes mainly consisting of the peel, seeds and pulp of the oranges. This results in a total 24.3m tons of orange waste per year. This waste is composed of significant quantities of soluble sugars, cellulose, hemicellulose, pectin and essential oils that could be extracted as value-added products. In this project we are working together with PeelPioneers to find a economically feasible businesscase for this wastestream.
Manufacturers like PeelPioneers B.V. benefits in extracting pigments, sugars and essential oils from the orange wastes (~250,000 tons/year). However, after extraction of higher value products, the remaining sugars, polysaccharides and protein can have a negative environmental impact while directly disposed to the main waste stream.
Orange peel extract waste
One of the upcycling methods of orange peel extract waste (OPEW) is through microbial fermentation. Due to its low pH and specific nutrient composition, not all microbes can utilize OPEW in an effective manner. The research group Biobased Building Blocks & Products at CoE BBE managed to test several microorganisms on OPEW based substrates. One of the fungal species showed excellent acid tolerance and produced a blue-green colorant which has high potential in the colorant market. Literature search has shown this colorant to be safe-to-use as a UV and heat stable paint material.
But how to turn this interesting test into an economically feasible business case? The industrial stakeholder PeelPioneers B.V. seeks the expertise of fungal biology, fermentation technology, chemical engineering and product discovery from CoE BBE. In this project, we will collaborate on analytical chemistry, fungal biology, fermentation optimization, extraction process design and literature research. Our vivid exchange of knowledge and facilities will definitely speed up the conversion of orange waste to valuable biobased products, thus relief the environmental pollution stress and help to boost biobased economy.