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Valorisation of mushroom agrowastes to obtain high value products

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - FUNGUSCHAIN (Valorisation of mushroom agrowastes to obtain high value products)

Reporting period: 2018-05-01 to 2020-02-29

The European Union produces large amounts of agricultural by-products, much of which is still treated as waste or for low value applications. Mushroom farming is no exception and the FUNGUSCHAIN project was set up to radically change this situation. It has been designed to have a strong impact on the joint BBI aim in propelling a bio-based, circular economy in Europe. FUNGUSCHAIN will boost innovation on agricultural waste management through the definition, demonstration, and validation of complete new value chains leading to high value products. It will demonstrate its novel approach using fungal agricultural residues of Monaghan Mushrooms. Using a sequence of innovative extraction and processing methods (a cascade approach) we aim to process and transform mushroom farming by-products into high value products, following the requirements of a range of end-users. We aim to use different processes to extract valuable active molecules from mushroom by-products using extraction methods that are environmentally friendly, avoiding commonly used toxic solvents. We will use innovative methods to identify bio-active fractions of interest for different applications and will develop and employ early stage safety evaluations of the potential end products using green chemistry approaches. The unique consortium that drives this initiative includes 4 large industries, 8 SMEs (small and medium enterprises) and 4 research and technology development entities.
In the first 40 months FUNGUSCHAIN partners developed an efficient cascading process that was scaled up to lab/pilot scale and in all assessments provided more than 40% of the raw material being processed into potential high added value additives and products. The method has been enhanced in the second reporting period using simplified more cost-effective and environmentally friendly methods. Applications of its intermediates for use in a range of product lines are now being explored together with end-users. This includes application in the food area (special diets and functional foods), plastics and plastic additives (to be converted into bioplastic films, bags and gloves), and cleaning products. We demonstrated the feasibility of creating complete new value chains leading to higher added value products for new markets. Seven draft business cases have been designed and are being challenged, improved and further selected to create optimal value chains.

A demonstration plant has now been established at a rural location close to Monaghan’s main facility, with the first product line fully operationalized. A wide range of innovative products, including functional foods, all-natural cosmetics and innovative biodegradable mulching sheets and other plastic components that improve circularity, as developed in FUNGUSCHAIN are designed by partners based on the cascade intermediates. Sustainability and circularity is further assured through LCA and safety analysis as well as residue use for biogas generation and agricultural applications.

The work will allow FUNGUSCHAIN to fully achieve the project objectives:
• Demonstration of an integrated cascading approach process with more than 40% valorisation of mushroom cultivation residues into high-value bio-based products.
• Industrial validation and demonstration of the extracted biomolecules into high value products
• Improvement of the competitiveness of European enterprises and the acceptance of the developed products, with particular interest in local entrepreneurship and the development of rural areas.
The integrated cascade using scalable methods forms the basis of the design and establishment of a demonstration plant and to foster Monaghan’s ambition to create a biotechnology-based innovation center that will lead to new innovative and profitable products, as well as economic development of rural areas. Functional foods and other product application areas, as developed in FUNGUSCHAIN are designed to feed this ambition. In conclusion, the FUNGUSCHAIN project is well underway to convert mushroom cultivation waste into high value products. In this way profitability of mushroom farming will be enhanced, creating new opportunities for rural development towards more high-end knowledge intensive bio-based activities. Moreover, to maximize impact, FUNGUSCHAIN aims to replicate the approach towards different territories and sectors, thus providing a major step forward in reaching sustainability goals and agricultural innovation.