Starchy opportunity for 'ugly' potatoes
Four Australian potato growers, including The Mitolo Group, Zerella Fresh, Thomas Foods International Fresh Produce and the South Australian Potato Company, are collaborating to turn their waste vegetables into new products, starting with research into building a starch industry in South Australia. The three-year project will target potatoes rejected from supermarkets for being too ugly, and will provide $1 million funding to find new homes for the cast-offs.
“Potato starch is used broadly across the food industry, from bioplastics and packaging to coatings and adhesives. We also want to use the waste from the waste, so after extracting the potato starch, there will be further opportunities using the residual waste from this first stage,” said Robbie Davis, Chief Executive of Potatoes South Australia, which is also partaking in the project.
It is estimated that 100,000 tonnes of potatoes are discarded as waste because they fail to meet rules on size, shape and colour. Despite this, Australia imports approximately 20,000 tonnes of potato starch each year. The Adelaide-based national Fight Food Waste Cooperative Research Centre is also partnering with the project, with the University of Adelaide’s Professor Vincent Bulone taking the lead from the analytical centre for complex carbohydrate analysis, Adelaide Glycomics.
“There are different forms of starch in potatoes than can be used in different products. For example, existing research suggests the less digestible starches in potatoes, the so-called resistant starches, can be used to make superior prebiotics that help prevent infections,” said Professor Bulone.
According to researchers, potato skins could be used to engineer low-GI foods, as they contain bioactives that can be used for a range of commercial products like nutraceuticals — products made from food but deemed to have extra health benefits alongside their existing nutritional value.
The project follows the launch of the Research Consortium for Agricultural Product Development in 2019, with $4 million in state government support. The research consortium aims to increase the value of agriculture waste and build new industry — its early projects include isolating and identifying anthocyanins from apples and berries for use in skincare formulations. Another project is exploring ways to use waste brussels sprouts to replace glass fibres in filtration systems and plastic.
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