Turning fish guts into gold

Wednesday, 03 July, 2024

Turning fish guts into gold

Seafood processing generates up to 90,000 tonnes of waste in Australia annually, including heads, tails, guts, skin and scales. Research from Swinburne University of Technology is now developing a model that could reduce this seafood processing waste by converting high-value collagen proteins into cosmetics, food and pharmaceuticals.

The research is led by Dr Nisa Salim from Swinburne’s School of Engineering under Sustainability Victoria’s Circular Economy Innovation Fund by the Circular Economy Business Innovation Centre (CEBIC), on behalf of the Victorian Government.

“More than 50% of a salmon is generated as by-products and discarded as waste,” Salim said.

“My team is offering an economical and environmentally friendly method to produce high-value collagen protein from aquaculture by-products, opening an innovative model for reducing waste generation in fish industries.

“Our solution is to use seafood by-products as a sustainable and ethical source of collagen. We take these by-products and turn it into a valuable resource through the production of collagen protein. This approach will eliminate fish waste going to landfill and instead can be used for consumer products.”

Collagen is a protein that has a wide range of applications when extracted: from a thickening agent in food, to hydration in cosmetics, to wound healing in medical products.

“We have a clear plan for demonstrating our product, starting with feasibility trials and testing, small-scale production and scaling up as demand grows. We have also identified potential markets and customers for our product, including major food and cosmetic companies,” Salim said.

Salim and the team at the university are partnering with the End Food Waste Cooperative Research Centre to accelerate this opportunity for the aquaculture industry. Salim said she is confident that the project has the potential to make a real difference with a positive impact on the environment, society and economy.

“Our circular economy design creates a win-win situation. This can reduce waste and environmental impact, create economic opportunities and offers a sustainable and ethical alternative to animal-based collagen production.”

Image credit: iStock.com/hdagli

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