Transforming food waste from a problem to a profitable product

A food technology company is introducing a new, scientifically validated process across Asia to convert food waste into feed for poultry, pigs, and aquaculture, enhancing profitability and reducing carbon dioxide emissions in the process.

Nathan Boyle, chief operations officer of Food Recycle, left, and Norm Boyle, company CEO, co-founded Food Recycle to tackle the global problem of food waste. The company has patented and patent-pending technology to convert any commercial food waste into high-performance animal feeds for industries including poultry, pigs, and aquaculture

As Asia returns to business-as-usual in 2023, it is worth casting a glance back at what was left behind in 2022: waste, and plenty of it. A study by Alcimed showed that 50% of global food waste comes from Asia.

The numbers are indeed daunting. The amount of food waste produced in China alone could feed 100 million people.

“Food waste rotting in landfill actually emits nearly six times the amount of greenhouse gases as the global aviation industry,” remarked Dr Steve Lapidge, CEO at Fight Food Waste.

In another study, “Annual household food waste produced in selected countries worldwide as of 2020”, it was found that China and India produce more household food waste than any other country worldwide at an estimated 92 million and 69 million metric tons every year, respectively. The study notes that this is unsurprising, considering both countries have by far the largest populations globally.

A company originating in Australia and taking its technology through Asia and globally has developed novel technology to address this very issue.

“In devising a successful environmental solution to food waste, we acknowledge it also has to make good business sense,” said Norm Boyle, CEO of Food Recycle.

The company’s technology takes food waste from different sources and converts it into food for poultry, pigs, and aquaculture. The environmental impact is significant and tangible. For example, feed accounts for about 35% of the carbon footprint of 1kg of chicken meat delivered to market and 76% of the carbon footprint of eggs.

While there is much debate and discussion around CO2 and its impact on global warming, the adverse effects of methane should be acknowledged. Around 30% of human food produced goes to waste and when that food goes to landfill it produces methane, which traps 20-30 times more heat than CO2.

“Food waste rotting in landfill actually emits nearly six times the amount of greenhouse gases as the global aviation industry,” said Dr Lapidge. “If we are going to do something about climate change, we really need to be looking strongly at food waste.”

A report “Carbon dioxide emissions from energy worldwide from 1965 to 2021, by region” found that “the Asia-Pacific region produced 17.74 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions in 2021. This was more than the combined total emissions of all other regions that year. China alone accounted for nearly 60% of Asia-Pacific CO2 emissions, and 31% of the global total.”

At the GOP26 held in Glasgow in 2021, eight out of the 10 South East Asian governments set targets to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Food Recycle has developed a process to process food waste from a variety of sources such as restaurants, abattoirs, farms, and processors. Each food waste stream is processed individually, analysed, and stored separately as ingredients.

“We then measure the nutritional and amino acid profile of each ingredient and then mix them together to make complete feeds,” added Boyle.

Two tonnes of food waste can be converted into one tonne of complete food suitable for poultry, pigs, and aquaculture. Apart from preventing the generation of methane, Food Recycle’s processing of food waste also eliminates every known biosecurity risk at no additional cost.

A series of rigorous trials conducted by CSIRO, Western Sydney University (WSU) and University of New England (UNE) have demonstrated the viability of Food Recycle’s process.

Food Recycle converts food waste into feed for animals, which in turn support the animal poultry market

Successful trials

One of the studies was conducted under the guidance of Dr Amy Moss, a postdoctoral research fellow at the school of environmental and rural science, UNE. Dr Moss focuses on poultry nutrition and researches ways to promote efficient chicken-meat production.

Dr Moss and her team collaborated with Poultry Hub and Food Recycle to conduct a 40-week feed trial on layer hens using a food waste diet using feed provided by Food Recycle. Egg quality and hen health were measured throughout the trial and then results compared. The study demonstrated the advantages of food waste-based feed for laying hens.

Performance was improved with food waste-based diets and egg production and quality was largely unchanged.

Another important food source that will benefit from food waste recycling is aquaculture. Cost-effective aquaculture food production will be beneficial to the growth of this sector and Food Recycle has tapped into the one of the world’s largest multidisciplinary science and research organisations, CSIRO.

Over a six-week period, CSIRO Scientist Dr Ha Truong conducted a feed trial on barramundi using a food waste diet with the feed provided by Food Recycle.

“Significant growth improvements were observed when food waste ingredients were incorporated in diets at 67%, partially replacing traditional ingredients,” says Dr Ha. Interestingly, the high food waste diet increased weight gain of the barramundi by 35% and intake by 13% compared to the control while also achieving a food conversion ratio of less than one, indicating that the conversion of diet into fish growth was highly efficient.

Technology-led innovations like the one from Food Recycle are key to meeting the environmental targets.

“We are working to convert food waste from a problem into a product and have successfully demonstrated this,” concluded Boyle.