Food from winery waste
The Australian wine industry is set to benefit significantly from a novel technology being developed at the University of South Australia that enables winery wastewater to be turned into a valuable protein-rich feed source for farm animals.
Using an integrated production treatment process, the technology not only converts winery wastewater into a value-added product but makes the water reusable for farm irrigation, according to Dr Bo Jin, Director of UniSA's Water Environment Biotechnology Laboratory.
The wine industry produces a substantial quantity of wastewater containing high levels of organic materials that are both highly polluting and costly to treat. Because this waste comes from the food source, grapes, it is rich in carbohydrate materials and contains very few toxins.
UniSA researchers are developing an integrated biotechnological treatment and production process that enables organic waste material to be removed from winery wastewater streams cheaply. This involves the use of super microorganisms that convert the waste into a fungal biomass protein feed for farm animaals including pigs, poultry and fish, as well as aquaculture industries. The researchers have already identified two super microorganisms that would be suitable for this conversion process.
The new process will have multiple benefits. As well as generating an important value-added food source, it cost-effectively recycles wastewater to a suitable standard for irrigating nearby farming areas that often experience water shortages, and helps the environment with less impact on water resources, reduced pollution of natural watercourses and less waste deposited to landfill.
"We call our program sustainable environment and resource management. By integrating production and treatment processes we also integrate environment protection and resource recovery," Dr Jin said.
Dr Jin will work with the Australian Water Quality Centre and wineries to progress his innovative environmental engineering project from the laboratory to a demonstration pilot plant to be installed in one of the wineries.
"We are developing a suitable microbe growth processing facility for treating and converting the organic compounds into biomass protein, with PhD students researching separate components of the research, one focusing on wastewater and one focusing on the microorganisms that turn waste material into a protein-rich food source," Dr Jin said.
"This food recovery is expected to become a valuable source of income for wineries while the treatment process is a very economical method of recycling wastewater."
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