Reject fruit eyed for biofuels, adhesives

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Kiwifruit, already recognised as a mild laxative, blood thinner, meat tenderiser and pavlova garnish, could be destined for even greater things.

Feasibility studies are being done by Scion, with Zespri Innovation, into how to turn 14.5 to 15.6 million trays of waste kiwifruit a year into biofuels and other products, including bioplastics, adhesive formulations and chemical/polymers.

Currently, much of the kiwifruit that fails to make the export or local market grade becomes stock food.

Graham Wiggins, president of NZ Kiwifruit Growers, said the prospect was exciting.

"The world is moving quite quickly towards biofuels and what might be seen now as a small use [of reject fruit] could in the future become a money earner for the industry," he said.

The potential existed to establish refineries making a range of products from waste kiwifruit near existing packhouses, he said.

"We have four major post-harvest suppliers in the industry and this could be a path they may choose to go down."

Dr Elspeth MacRae, Scion's head of biomaterials research in Rotorua, said the refineries would be similar to wineries or breweries.

"The basic principles of fermentation and distilling are exactly the same as those mankind has been using for thousands of years," she said.

David Roberts, chairman of the Green Growers Association, is also enthusiastic about the research.

"The ... association has been asking for research into ways of using reject fruit, and turning it into bio-gas makes sense."

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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