Waikato University company develops bio-plastic made from blood meal

Hamilton-based Aduro Biopolymers is reported to have devised a method for making bio-plastic out of blood meal, a byproduct of the freezing works process.

The company, spun out of the University of Waikato, is focused on taking its lead product, Novatein, to market within the next four years, according to an account (here) in the NZ Herald.

The product, offering an alternative to regular plastics made from petrochemicals, is the result of years of research at the University of Waikato led by chemical engineer Johan Verbeek.

Aduro Biopolymers acting chief executive Darren Harpur said the manufacturing process involved adding water and various agents to the blood meal – sourced from rendering companies – that altered its protein structure.

The “slurry” then goes into an extruder that processes it into plastic granules that will be sold as Novatein.

Harpur said Aduro’s business model did not involve the company going any further than making the granules.

Instead, manufacturers will purchase Novatein and mould it into plastic products such as trays, containers and clips used in the horticultural industry.

Aduro secured investment from Wallace Corporation, one of the country’s biggest animal rendering firms, in February.

Harpur wouldn’t disclose how much was invested but said Wallace Corporation now held a 45 per cent stake in the company, with the balance being owned by WaikatoLink, the University of Waikato’s technology transfer organisation.

Aduro has also formed a co-funding partnership with Meat & Livestock Australia, a producer-owned firm that delivers marketing and R&D services for cattle, sheep and goat farmers across the Tasman.

A Novatein product will be developed for the Australian market, Harpur said.

The company plans to establish a manufacturing facility in Australia and commercialise the product in that country by 2016 or 2017.

Harpur said Aduro hopes to develop a suite of products and set up a plant in New Zealand shortly after.

Novatein could be produced more cheaply than other bioplastics made from plant material, he said, with a kg expected to sell for around $2.50 to $3.50.

Harpur said that while Novatein was more expensive than some regular plastic products, which can sell for less than $2 a kg, it solved problems for its users.

For example, strawberry farmers using the bioplastic to cover their plants wouldn’t need to spend time gathering up the material after the harvest as it’s biodegradable.

Aduro is a finalist in the KiwiNet Research Commercialisation Awards.

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