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Whey2Value: Valorising waste whey into high-value products

Periodic Reporting for period 3 - WHEY2VALUE (Whey2Value: Valorising waste whey into high-value products)

Reporting period: 2017-03-01 to 2017-10-31

Whey2Value project’s key objective is launching production of organic vitamin B12 on the market through eco-innovative technology, which uses waste whey as input substrate and produces as a result high value product vitamin B12 and purified water. It is solving the unmet challenge of sustainable milk processing with Make-Use-Reuse principle: from milk industries (cheese production) through waste whey management to vitamin B12 production used for the animal feed additives industry and cleaned water that can be recycled/reused by the industry again.
The main aim of the project is to set up a 10m3 pilot-scale demonstration prototype plant and prepare Whey2Value for commercialisation. In the period from 1 March 2017 until 31 October 2017 (period covered by the third report) all the activities within project Whey2Value were performed as initially planned. First phase of the project extensively focused on design and construction of the pilot-scale waste whey processing demonstration facility, while the second phase focused on finishing design and setting-up pilot-scale whey process. In the third phase, the work focused on optimisation of technological parameters at 10m3 pilot scale, parameters that drive the main economic calculations behind W2V technology (yields, turnover time, mass balance calculations etc.) and finalizing W2V technology for producing vitamin B12 on the level of TRL9.

The setting-up of demonstration plant has been carried out according to the plan and pilot plant facility has been operational since October 2016. A 10 m3 size prototype plant was selected at the smallest “industrial-scale” size, where it is already possible to obtain TRL9 level parameters with reasonably low prototype cost. One of the main objectives of the project was to provide infrastructure and demonstrate on a 10m3 pilot scale the technology performance and validate W2V technology.

All parameters for successful demonstration have been established with good results. Optimization lead to significant improvements in regard to economic parameters, which are important for industrial processing. All operational steps have been adapted to industrially relevant conditions, what enable preparation of first conceptual design for industrial plant with 200 m3 capacity. The final product formulation optimization started with the fine-tuning of downstream processing, which includes biomass separation, biomass drying and wastewater finishing. All processing steps have been evaluated and final product is now in the form of spray-dried B12-enriched biomass, which has been characterised in regard to all important quality parameters (vitamin B12 content, dry matter, microbiological and nutritional characteristics). The final material is of excellent quality and can be used for the preparation of vitamin B12 rich animal feed.

After the end of the project Whey2Value SME INST Phase 2, the new vitamin-B12 enriched microbial biomass product will need to undergo a registration process at EFSA and FDA to obtain respective regulatory approval before actual market deployment can take place.

Our management activities were focused on safeguarding compliance with all obligations derived from the grant agreement and to ensure effective implementation of the project procedures through management activities. Whey2Value project ran smoothly according to the initiated project plan, which was created in the beginning of the project activities. There were no deviations from the planned milestones and deliverables. An external advisory committee was established with strong academic and industrial experts in this field.

Dissemination of the Whey2Value project was planned to take place throughout the project’s lifespan and beyond. The dissemination activities have been planned in order to target key stakeholders and raise awareness of Whey2Value objectives within EU funding. The third reporting period was about the promotion of project progress - taking part at the most important biotechnology conferences and events. All of the activities also demonstrated the importance of EU funding for SME’s in order to bring their technologies to the market.

With Whey2Value pilot prototype demonstration plant now fully operational, we also intend to display this unit as a showcase of the capability of industrial biotechnology to bring innovative zero‑waste and sustainable “circular-economy” processes and solutions that can (1) increase the competitiveness of European small, medium as well as large industries, (2) increase knowledge‑based value added industries, (3) increase the interest in young people to choose career paths in such exciting area of applied science, (4) very importantly, increase the awareness of policy‑makers, regulatory bodies and local and national government representatives of the importance but also of feasibility of such high-value and sustainable circular economy solutions. We intend to make “open door” events to demonstrate the prototype facility and explain the concept of sustainable zero-waste circular economy and the role that biotechnology will play in this important future.
Acid whey is major unsolved high-cost environmental challenge for the world’s dairy industry. Whey2Value technology will greatly reduce impact on the environment. Moreover, it is implementing resource efficiency and introducing circular economy to dairy industry. Whey2Value is a perfect example of a zero-waste circular economy: it uses waste (whey) to generate high-value products (vitamin B12), which are reused by the animal industry as feed, while the purified waters are recycled as technological water by the dairy industries. With this, it adds to preserving European traditional dairy production in rural environment by bringing the production of vitamin B12 back to Europe (current production (93%) is located in China).
In the third phase of project implementation, we have finalised and successfully demonstrated W2V technology for producing vitamin B12 on the level of TRL 9 at 10m3 scale.