HGCA announces 250k investment to add value to arable products

Development assistance for market opportunities in the global chemical market for existing agricultural by-products and co-products

HGCA is investing £250,000 to develop market opportunities in the global chemical market for existing arable by-products and co-products.

The University of Reading and Rothamsted Research have been awarded £235,000 to develop a process for the production of ferulic acid from wheat bran.

Dr Dimitris Charalampopoulos, who will be leading the research, said: “Plant materials are rich in ferulic acid which can be converted into vanillin. This can be used to add flavour to a variety of products or as an active agent in a range of personal care formulations, such as sun creams and anti-ageing skin care products.”

Currently, ferulic acid is mainly produced commercially from the residues generated during the production of rice bran oil. However, wheat bran has great potential as a UK source because it contains relatively high concentrations of the acid.

It is estimated that around one million tonnes of wheat bran is produced annually in the UK and that this could equate to a potential ferulic acid production of up to 5,000 tonnes.

The proposed research will generate the technical know-how for the development of a scalable, cost-effective and efficient process for ferulic acid production.

A further £15,000 has been awarded to NNFCC to conduct a 3-month techno-economic feasibility study to investigate the potential for a Poly Lactic Acid (PLA) plant in the UK.

PLA has gained a foothold in the global plastics supply chain in recent years and is used in many applications from compostable packaging to durable automotive plastics. The global biopolymer market is growing substantially, with anticipated growth of 13% by 2020 in the EU alone. In 2012, the added value bio-based productivity in the UK was worth about £4.1 billion.

“As PLA is a versatile bio-based molecule with a low carbon footprint, it is increasing its market share. This work will help assess the opportunity for UK PLA production so that we can be in a strong position to build a vertical supply chain – from field to finished product,” stated Dr John Williams, who will be leading the work at NNFCC.

Harley Stoddart, HGCA Research and Knowledge Transfer Manager, concluded, “HGCA is investing in this work to help add economic value to lower quality products from conventional milling by developing an economically sustainable supply of renewable raw materials which can be used within the chemical industry.

“By increasing the options for products that have lower value in the food and feed markets, HGCA hopes that associated values will increase, bringing benefits to both the grower and the processor.”


HGCA, press release, 2013-07-18.


Rothamsted Research
University of Reading