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Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way
WEB MAGAZINE - November 2017

Feathers – animal feed of the future?

Diana Lindberg and her colleagues laugh as they pick up and throw more feathers into the crisp autumn air.

“This is one of the raw materials that could be used as a source of protein in the future,” says Lindberg, picking up another handful of white down from the lawn.

“In this project, we’re looking at the negative environmental aspects of the conventional process, and developing a whole new combination of state-of-the-art techniques,” says Lindberg, Research Scientist at Nofima.

Locally produced feathers could well be used to replace other protein sources in animal feed. Currently, the feathers are usually destroyed, used for soil improvement, or burned for heat recovery. When used as raw material in protein feed, an energy-intensive chemical method is used to produce the feather flour.

Lignin – a greener alternative to plastic
The Feather2Feed team has a broad network and extensive expertise in the industry. This also applies to the other five projects in the new joint Nordic Green Growth Research and Innovation Programme, funded by NordForsk, Nordic Innovation and Nordic Energy Research. The Nordic Green Growth programme combines high-quality research with innovative business solutions, and is a result of the largest investment in research and innovation in the history of the Nordic region so far – the Top-level Research Initiative for Climate, Energy and the Environment – launched by the Nordic prime ministers in 2008.

Two of the projects focus mainly on lignin, a by-product of wood processing left after the extraction of cellulose and hemicellulose. Since lignin is produced in large quantities in the Nordic countries, it is an untapped but valuable resource.
“Our goal is to develop techniques for using lignin as an alternative renewable source of raw material in selected unique applications,” says Tarja Tamminen, Principal Scientist at VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland.

The goal is to reduce production costs, while improving the characteristics of a material that has been underused in industry so far. The researchers are examining how lignin can be used in multifunctional metal coatings, ultra-clean biogas, and functional films for biomedical applications, as well as edible food packaging.

Important exchange of knowledge
The potential for forestry companies, paper mills and chemical companies hinges on their ability to utilise and manufacture biobased chemicals of lignin and replace the traditional raw materials used today, which are usually based on crude oil. For this, a more cost-effective process is needed, and developing such a process is the goal of the second project, focusing on lignin.

“We will develop a process based on low temperature plasma with the aim of extracting valuable chemicals from lignin,” says project manager Martin Østberg, Haldor Topsøe, who can also see interesting synergies between the two projects.

“The advantage of this programme, apart from the funding, is that it gives us the opportunity to exchange knowledge with the other projects. They have skills that we don’t possess, which will lead to various forms of valuable cooperation,” says project manager Martin. “This has already started.”

NordForskNordic Innovation and Nordic Energy Research are the main funders of research and innovation collaborations in the Nordic countries. The Nordic Green Growth Research and Innovation Programme has a total budget of NOK 74 million. 

Photo: Terje Heiestad/NordForsk