Separating nutrients from waste

Tuesday, 21 February, 2006

Together the University of Western Sydney's Centre for Advanced Food Research (CAFR) and Food Science Australia (FSA) have invented a way to separate and purify the nutrients contained in manufacturing waste.

It's the ultimate in recycling, and the Australian dairy industry could become a world-leader in environmentally-sustainable food manufacturing following a million dollar deal being struck between two of Australia's leading food science institutions and a French supplier of life science processing solutions.

CAFR and FSA's experts have pioneered cutting-edge technology that separates the lactose contained in whey and purifies it into a pharmaceutical-grade product for use in medicines and health supplements. The new process is regarded as being an important solution to the problem of how to maximise the value of the 3.3 million tonnes of whey generated each year by Australia's dairy manufacturers. While some whey is currently converted into high-value products, much more is sold cheaply or discarded as waste - usually as animal feed or onto fields.

The University's Office of Business Development (OBD) was instrumental in framing the decision making process between CAFR, FSA and Dairy Australia. Applexion (part of Groupe NovaSep) was initially contacted in November 2004 on behalf of the three owners in the patent (UWS, FSA and Dairy Australia), the Office of Business Development negotiated a 'Heads of Agreement' and engaged lawyers to write a licence agreement by the end of January 2005. OBD then concluded negotiations and documented the deal, which is expected to earn the patent owners up to $3.5 million over the next 5 years.

The technology gives the Australian dairy industry the opportunity to recover valuable components from its manufacturing waste and potentially generate millions of dollars from what is currently being thrown away. The technology won the Environmental Sciences Technology Sector Award at the Australian Knowledge Commercialisation Forum and Fair of Ideas in March 2003.

The UWS/FSA team are now in the process of looking for partners to extend the research and explore its full potential in non-dairy applications. Business and commercialisation opportunities exist to:

  • promote on-licensing of the patented technology.
  • collaborative R&D partner to extend the technology into new areas.
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