Cut fruit specialists Mirontell and natural fibre ‘engineers’ Zelfo Technology have teamed up to examine the potential uses of fruit industry residual materials such as skins, cores, pulp etc. Their first results have revealed a series of products for use in the materials, food, and energy industries.
Mirontell, a significant player in the ‘Cut Fresh Fruit’ market in Germany are at the front end of the business equation regarding the issue of the relatively high percentage of non-income generating ‘residual’ fruit materials. Zelfo Technology and Mirontell were introduced to each other back in 2017 as a result of a BioEconomy Event in Potsdam arranged by the WFBB (Germany based Industry Promotional Agency for Berlin/Brandenburg). Noting that both post harvest and industry related waste is a significant problem for the fruit industry, working with Mirontell seemed a particularly relevant project for Zelfo, which is focused on the development of sustainable materials for industry. Whilst further discussions took place to consider in outline what could be achieved, Zelfo’s processing systems had advanced to the point that they felt able to deliver more than their originally envisaged engineered cellulose material. This proved to be the case during the first trials using Mirontell supplied residual materials.
A surprising ‘parallel products opportunity’ emerged as the first experiments reveal technical benefits from both ‘product streams’. The primary ‘end use’ opportunities are based on the fibre engineering side and include adding new properties to pulp formed products and in panels for interior and furniture construction. Derivatives are seen as the key parallel offer, which is not surprising as a whole list of previously discarded properties exist in these residuals including; organic matter, phytochemicals, and compounds with nutraceutical properties. Furthermore there is often significant presence of cellulose, hemicellulose, pectin, minerals, vitamins, and sometimes useful – low lignin content. The project partners are not alone in this evaluation, as various steering groups have already researched the existing options for use of the residuals as enzymes, ethanol, and bio-pigments and other products suitable for use in various industries.
Mirontell’s Robert Leuendorf (Lean-Production Manager) sees this first round of tests as one of the most significant developments in the industry in a long time. “The benefits in regards to the bottom line as well as the sustainability message are priceless. We look forward to supporting Zelfo Technology in this journey and to benefiting from the rewards as and when commercial products emerge.”
Both companies see the initial test project as a ‘primer’ leading into a number of product areas and further relationships with partner companies. This viewpoint has been vindicated as they now have involvement from further industry partners. Looking further into the future, industries who have already identified a fruit based derivative are particularly of interest. Working with such partners reduces R&D time in regard to the identification of the target properties and focuses the exercise on process optimisation to deliver the engineered fibre and/or derivative in question.
Gregoire de Vilmorin, New Business Director at Zelfo Technology commented: “As a result of our work in packaging using agricultural residual fibres and knowing the potential of how we can mix residual fibre sources to create value based products we took this project on without hesitation.
The first results with the fruit residuals are a great culmination of or past two years technical development“.
It would seem that at first glance the fastest start lies in the potential for in-house projects where a residual stream becomes a raw material for a secondary product. In fact Mirontell itself is looking for bio based packaging solutions using their waste stream.
In regards to the market, on a global level there is a substantial supply of raw materials from fruit based industries as
Particularly interesting are fruit processing plants based in the developing world where both packaging and building materials are in high demand and the energy generating potential from the derivatives of certain fruit types may be an important business and socio-economic path to follow.
In the developed world where pre-packaged fruit based products are a huge market, the majority of the residual materials are used for cattle feed or land filled which is problematic due to nutrient imbalances, algae growth and loss of oxygen in aquatic environments leading to fauna reduction (crustaceans, amphibians, and fish). As a response to this and as margins get tighter in business, Zelfo Technology intends to employ their form of ‘Biorefining’ to improve matters concerning both sustainability and the material and financial returns from this valuable resource.
Established as Mirontell Fein & Frisch AG in 2004 as a fruit salad manufacturer and prides itself as reliable partner for the production of first-class convenience products. Initially operating regionally, after around three years of business it extended its reach to a national level. Today, Mirontell GV partners supply fresh fruit salads all over Germany. In 2008, Mirontell’s range was expanded to include Freshcut food retail products (LEH) selling extensively to supermarket chains.
Robert Leuendorf (Lean-Production Manager)
About Zelfo Technology
The company was formally established in 2011. Using patented technology and extensive knowhow, Zelfo Technology engineers ligno-celluose fibre from a wide variety of sources to create self binding fibre for use as bio-binders, reinforcing agents, pulp formed products and composites. Beyond fibre engineering, their technology is designed to deliver additional material and chemical properties resident in various forms of bio-mass. With a wide spectrum of partners and clients Zelfo Technology has extensive relationships with international businesses and corporations.
Grégoire de Vilmorin (New Business Director)