FOUR of the largest potato producers in Australia will sink nearly $1 million into ways of utilising waste spuds.
Over the next three years, The Mitolo Group, Zerella Fresh, Thomas Foods International Fresh Produce and The South Australian Potato Company are aiming to convert 100 per cent of their potato waste into commercial benefit.
The four companies have entered a partnership with the Fight Food Waste Cooperative Research Centre (CRC), in conjunction with industry association Potatoes South Australia and the University of Adelaide.
Research and development will go into saving up to 100,000 tonnes of potatoes currently going to waste every year.
Potatoes South Australia chief executive, Robbie Davis, said it was a fantastic opportunity for South Australia as the largest potato-growing state.
- Powdery scab fix for potatoes getting closer
- Drought proof potatoes target of international research
- Potato supply drops as farmers struggle to grow crops on little water allocation
"We are seeing up to 40pc of potatoes rejected because they do not meet retail specifications," Ms Davis said.
"At the same time Australia is importing 20,000 tonnes of potato starch each year, and it just doesn't make sense that we're not using these huge volumes of potatoes for alternative purposes.
A large focus of this project is the potential development of an Australian potato starch industry which would provide additional revenue for Australian potato companies; potentially $1000 a tonne for extracted starch instead of the current value of $0-10 a tonne for the waste.
"Potato starch is used broadly across the food industry, from bioplastics and packaging, to coatings and adhesives," Ms Davis said.
"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."
Another known starch component can be used to engineer low GI foods, and the skins of the potatoes themselves contain bioactives that can be used for a range of commercial products like nutraceuticals.
The University of Adelaide's professor Vincent Bulone is leading this research project from his analytical centre for complex carbohydrate analysis, Adelaide Glycomics.
The project is in line with the University's industry engagement priority on agrifood and wine.
"There are different forms of starch in potatoes that can be used in different products. For example, existing research suggests that the less digestible starches in potatoes, the so-called 'resistant starches', can be used to make superior pre-biotics that help prevent infections," Professor Bulone said.
"Another known starch component can be used to engineer low GI foods, and the skins of the potatoes themselves contain bioactives that can be used for a range of commercial products like nutraceuticals."
Fight Food Waste CRC CEO, Dr Steven Lapidge, said he was thrilled to have such a transformational project underway so early in the Fight Food Waste CRC's journey, and sees the partnership between all of the potato producers as a great example of what CRCs can achieve.
"We're looking to develop new products from current waste streams that will deliver additional profit to potato producers through domestic and export sales," Dr Lapidge said.
"Through investing in research and development we aim to deliver new high-value commercial opportunities for the participants of this project.
"This project is exactly what the CRC is all about; delivering real benefit for Australian businesses across the whole of the value chain."