Low Carbon Devon’s support has been invaluable to demonstrating the commercial and technical feasibility of a novel circular economy material from the agri-food sector and paving the way to follow-on projects and additional routes to market.
Devon business Bell & Loxton Innovations Ltd is investigating circular economy solutions for new uses for agricultural and food processing waste products. They are working with researchers at the University of Plymouth to analyse the composition and potential value in nutritional and therapeutic products.
Bell & Loxton is a family business run from a working farm and food oil manufacturer in South Devon. With net zero and sustainability targets at its core, the circular-economy spin-out company – Bell & Loxton Innovations - have identified a potentially exciting waste reduction solution deriving extra value from food-processing and crop co-streams.
From their Devon base, they have access to abundant waste products from farmers’ normal crop rotations and have been analysing the components for development into high-value bio-renewables. These components could have widespread applications across the nutrition, personal care and pharma sectors. The agritech company has been helped to further investigate the prospects in a research collaboration with the University of Plymouth.
Waste with value
Food sector waste products can be excellent sources of proteins and healthy oils. Proteins from different natural sources have unique compositions of amino acids both in terms of prevalence and sequence. Currently, agri-food waste products are of low economic value, mainly used as fish and animal feed, for energy, or end up as waste. But components from the waste have the potential to be used as ingredients in high-value products such as skin care products or nutritional supplements.
The Low Carbon Devon project connected Devon enterprises with expertise within the University of Plymouth. This often gives the enterprise a competitive edge and takes their development beyond what they could achieve with their resources alone. With the support of the project's
The Devon Net Zero Innovation Fund, Bell & Loxton have worked closely with the cutting-edge expertise of the Proteomics Department at the University of Plymouth including Dr Vikram Sharma, Mr George Mawson and Dr Wajnat Tounsi.
With their specialist skills and technologies, the University of Plymouth researchers have analysed the attributes of the waste products at the molecular level and assessed their characteristics for suitability in different products. The initial results are promising. Whilst further stages of analysis are needed, the research project has accelerated Bell & Loxton's understanding of the components within the materials and they have identified additional commercialisation routes to market. The potentially high-value attributes will be researched further to determine the likely end use of these ingredients and the potential for the company to develop new products. The results of the testing have brought them closer to a time when they can manufacture a supply of high-value bio-renewables for a range of markets.
There is potential that research in this area could provide a diversified income stream which could revolutionise the agri-food circular economy. Markets for zero-waste products are growing and this will be a welcomed income stream at a time when farmers are dealing with the impact of climate change on the predictability of farming outputs.
As a result of this initial project, further funding has been secured including Devon County Council's Devon Agri-Tech Accelerator (DATA) funding and an application has been submitted to InnovateUK for a Better Food for All grant. Using the findings from the Devon Net Zero Innovation Fund report, introductions will be made to University experts in sarcopenia, nutrition and aquaculture. This could develop these particular areas further with a view to new product development. In addition, the project's collaborative partners have been successful in securing further funding from the University of Plymouth to continue to work together.
Peter Luebcke, Bell & Loxton Innovations CTO
The Low Carbon Devon project was a five-year European Regional Development Fund project held at the University of Plymouth supporting Devon businesses to transition to the low carbon economy closing in mid-2023.
The project served as a catalyst for low carbon economic growth in Devon via the Future Shift internship programme, a series of free events and by connecting enterprises with expertise within the University of Plymouth.
The project collaborated with over 130 innovative Devon enterprises who are developing sustainable practices and securing opportunities in the low carbon economy.
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