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published on December 8, 2016 - 4:50 PM
Written by The Business Journal Staff
First there was milk, and now almonds may be used to make a range of products from cosmetics and pharmaceuticals to plastics.

 

That’s according to the Almond Board of California, which announced a research initiative to find new uses for almond processing byproducts, which include hulls, shells and other woody material.

Such products could bring value to the economy and environment as well as almond growers, said Glenda Humiston, vice president of the UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, during a presentation at a state almond conference this week.

“We have shifted our mindset to view agriculture coproducts as an opportunity, not a problem. In fact, as research continues to find new and innovative technologies to commercialize coproducts into bioproducts, almond coproducts might someday be as profitable as the almonds themselves. It’s a win-win for the almond industry,” Humiston said.

For example, almond shells can be heated to high temperatures, creating a charcoal-like product which could possibly be used to make stronger biodegradable plastics for garbage bags, flowers pots and rubber tires. Sugars can also be extracted from almond hulls for use a food ingredient or fuel, while fermentation can turn almond byproducts into fibrous materials that can be added to diapers as a natural absorber or as additives for foods, moisturizers and pharmaceuticals.

“This research supports California in creating a genuine bioeconomy — where every byproduct is an input to another valuable product,” said Karen Lapsley, D.Sc., chief scientific officer at the Almond Board of California. “However, we are also exploring opportunities to take these coproducts and incorporate them back into the orchard, which can contribute to reducing the carbon footprint of almonds.”

In 2015, the California almond industry grew 1.9 billion pounds of almond kernels as well as 3.8 billion pounds of hulls and 1.3 billion pounds of shells.


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