An integrated biorefinery for the conversion of dairy side streams to high-value bio-based chemicals

AGRICHEMWHEY, a project that is receiving funding from the BBI JU, is building a first-of-a-kind, industrial-scale biorefinery to valorise dairy processing by-products into several added-value bio-based materials for growing global markets, such as lactic acid (LA). This Flagship project aims to also prove the techno-economic viability of this innovative biorefinery technology. A major objective is to establish a new industrial symbiosis value chain with other local stakeholders for the production of high-value sustainable food and feed products from the processes side streams, creating an enhanced circular bioeconomy for the agriculture and agri-food waste – tackling one of the major sustainability issues of the dairy industry.

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At the time of writing, we are in the midst of the global Covid-19 pandemic. Safety is our number one priority and the project management team are regularly liaising with project partners and our project officer. In spite of lock down restrictions, work is continuing on the AGRICHEMWHEY project and since our last newsletter, significant progress has been made towards the overall process validation. Multiple whey permeate streams and whey permeate/delactosed permeate blends have been fully trialled, tested and validated in our process flow. This includes the successful validation of the pre-treatment, microbial lactic acid fermentation and finally, downstream purification of the lactic acid product using multiple feedstocks. This led to the development of a unique process description, which includes a comprehensive chemical mass balance, that ultimately provides the process requirements for our large scale biorefinery design. Work on the detailed engineering design of the industrial bio-refinery is now well advanced. This detailed engineering work involves the specification of the requirements for the entire process, as well as all the services and infrastructure required to operate the proposed biorefinery in the most efficient way possible, using the best available technologies on offer. The next AGRICHEMWHEY consortium meeting planned for July 2020 at the AGRICHEMWHEY project site in Lisheen, Co. Tipperary, Ireland will still go ahead and this will now be organised to take place via teleconference. In the meantime, we hope all our collaborators and stakeholders stay safe.

5th AGRICHEMWHEY Consortium Meeting

The 5th AGRICHEMWHEY Consortium meeting took place on the 3rd of December 2019 at University College Dublin. The meeting brought together representatives from all partners and work packages. Each partner presented updates on their ongoing work and shared their plans for the next 6 months. Work to date has been carried out towards the process integration, optimisation and scale-up, with detailed discussions between the consortium members on the upstream and downstream processing. This provided input for further discussion by the consortium on the equipment design, modelling and operations for the overall design of the flagship plant.

Communication and dissemination activities were also discussed and the ACW project has been well represented at many events and conferences throughout 2019.

AGRICHEMWHEY participates in BBI JU Stakeholder Forum

The BBI JU is the Bio-based Industries Joint Undertaking: a €3.7 billion partnership between the EU and the Bio-based Industries Consortium. The BBI JU Stakeholder Forum took place on 4 December 2019 in Brussels. The event brought together members of the bio-based industries community to facilitate open discussion on the impact, achievements and strategic direction of the Bio-based Industries Joint Undertaking (BBI JU) programme, as well as the latest developments in the bio-based industries sector.

Congratulations to UCD & Glanbia Ireland winners of KTI Collaborative Research Impact Award

The KTI Impact Awards recognise and showcase the success in knowledge transfer carried out in Irish Higher Education Institutions and publicly funded research organisations for the wider benefit of the economy and society at large. The awards recognise top performance in industry engagement and commercialisation of research and they pay tribute to the business and research performing organisations involved in knowledge transfer. UCD and Glanbia won the Collaborative Research Impact Award for the AGRICHEMWHEY project. Read more here.

AGRICHEMWHEY participate in Food Innovation Gateway – Food Biotransformation

Food Innovation Gateway – a showcase of research and opportunities for Irish food and beverage producers took place in the Teagasc Food Research Centre, Moorepark, Fermoy, Cork. Dr Parikshit Sawdekar of Glanbia Ireland represented AgriChemWhey at the successful event.

AGRICHEMWHEY at the Plastic exhibition at Science Gallery Dublin

The AGRICHEMWHEY concept was displayed at Plastics exhibition at Trinity college Dublin. The exhibition has been visited by over 95,000 people to date. Although the museum is currently closed to visitors the tour is scheduled until the end of 2020. See here for more details and to find out when the exhibition is available to visit again.

AGRICHEMWHEY at Kerry Science Festival, Tralee, Ireland

AgriChemWhey attended the Kerry Science Festival at IT Tralee. This event was supported by SFI as part of the 2019 Science Week across Ireland which took place on 10th to 17th November 2019. The goal of this event was to demonstrate how science can be used to effect climate control and its importance for the future wellbeing of the world. It gave the local community a chance to meet researchers, companies and communities working on biobased products, biodiversity and clean energy. To find out more about the event see here.

AGRICHEMWHEY attends first IBF Member Assembly

The assembly took place at Thurles, Co Tipperary on 21st November. The Irish Bioeconomy Foundation (IBF) is Ireland’s national bioeconomy association and innovation cluster. IBF was founded in mid-2017 to establish a fora of industry, academia and policy leaders around Ireland’s emerging bioeconomy. During this informative event between the Irish cluster and its members many topics were discussed with progress updates given and future opportunities outlined. It was a great networking opportunity for all members involved. Find out more about the IBF here.


Process Worldwide has published an article identifying the AgriChemWhey process as a major industrial venture to convert residues from food processing in a bid to enhance the circular bioeconomy through agriculture and agri-food waste. You can read the article here.

Congratulations to Dr Ramesh Babu and colleagues for their publication ‘Bio-based and biodegradable polymers – State-of-the-art, Challenges and Emerging Trends’ in Current Opinion in Green and Sustainable Chemistry. To read the review click here (open access).

AGRICHEMWHEY animation video has over 1000 YouTube views! You can watch the video here.

New colleagues

There have been several new employees hired to contribute to AGRICHEMWHEY since our last newsletter:

  • Dr Sumit Sukhbasi Lal, PDRA at TCD (IE)
  • Dr Guillaume Pomalaza, PDRA at KU Leuven (BE)
  • Dr Claire Flanagan, Innovation Consultant at PNO Consultants Ltd (UK)
  • Rodrigo Arandi-Klee, European Project Manager at Pole Greenwin (BE)
  • Emanuela Lepore, PhD student, UCD and TEAGASC (IE)

Other news

BBI JU analyses of the landscape of SMEs in projects

Find out more and read the report here.

BIC Public consultation on SIRA 2030

The emerging bio-based industries sector, coordinated by the Bio-based Industries Consortium (BIC), is cooperating with the European Commission to create a new public-private partnership under Horizon Europe. The objective is to build on and expand on the achievements of the existing Bio-Based Industries Joint Undertaking (BBI JU). The SIRA2030 sets out the main technological and innovation challenges to establish a sustainable and competitive bio-based industry in Europe. To find out more and provide your input see here.

Bioeconomy Events in 2020

Due to the ongoing coronavirus crisis planned events have been postponed or cancelled. Updates will follow in the next AGRICHEMWHEY newsletter on new event dates and details.