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Sheffield Hallam University starts food waste and nutrition research project

09 April 2017

Sheffield Hallam University has been awarded £400k to undertake research which could help to tackle food waste and nutritional problems and support economic growth in rural communities in India. 

The University's National Centre of Excellence for Food Engineering is one of 13 industrial and academic partners in India and the UK involved in the £1million project funded by Innovate UK, aimed at improving rice processing and rice waste minimisation in India.
Success of the project will place the UK at the forefront of rice processing capability as well as improving the economic situation of those involved in rice growing and rice milling at a local level in India.

       The project aims to optimise the rice milling process by epmploying new technology to reduce rice breakage (and therefore waste), and to develop a use for rice bran and rice husk – two major waste streams from the milling process.  By addressing these challenges, it is anticipated that the project will:

• Develop a lower energy milling process that will reduce rice broken during the milling process from 28% to 8%.
• Increase total rice output by up to 12% (resulting in an additional 10.6 million tonnes of rice production every year in India, using significantly less energy).
• Process rice bran into nutritious food ingredients (providing potentially 7.72 million tonnes of additional food).
• Process rice husks into five million tonnes of rice husk ash for building materials. 

The project will also investigate the opportunities to recycle rice husk into ash for the manufacture of sustainable materials for the construction industry.
The European Biotechnology Research Institutes suggests that waste char from burning rice husk has 40% ash content.  When rice husks are burnt at a low enough temperature the ash can be ground into a fine powder.  This powder has potential applications as a valuable component in building materials due to its high silica content, in addition to having a lower environmental impact. This is yet to be exploited in India and rice husk ash is currently sent to landfill.
Commenting on the project, Martin Howarth, director of the National Centre of Excellence for Food Engineering, said: "This research has the long-term ambition of helping to solve two serious issues in India - food waste and nutrition.
"At present, there is a lot of wastage in rice harvesting and milling in India and other rice growing regions in the world. This project aims to review and improve this process in order to create value and function from rice husk and bran.
"This is an exciting opportunity to work with industrial and academic partners - in the UK and India - on this complex project which addresses important environmental and socio-economic challenges.

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