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Bioinspired Materials, biotechnology to obtain new products from slurry

Bioinspired Materials, biotechnology to obtain new products from slurry

This UPF spin-off aims to reduce the impact of hog waste extracting useful molecules from it to produce feed, adhesives and binder materials.

04.11.2019

Imatge inicial

The pork industry needs alternative ways to manage slurry, which seriously pollutes soil and aquifers. Today, a new UPF spin-off has emerged called Bioinspired Materials, which is developing a solution to turn livestock waste into raw material: by means of biotechnological processes, it can obtain new products such as animal feed, adhesives and binder materials for building.

The birth of the company has been made official today, 4 November, with the signing of the articles of incorporation by the University general manager, Jaume Badia, and its three founding members: CEO, Carlos Rodríguez-Caso; business development manager, Ramon Farré-Escofet, and scientific development manager, Javier Macía, who is also the principal investigator of the UPF research group in Synthetic Biology for Biomedical Applications.

The problem of slurry is especially serious in our environment: the Catalan Water Agency estimates that 41% of Catalan aquifers are contaminated by nitrates from pig slurry, and 139 municipalities’ water supply networks have nitrate concentrations higher than the permitted limit. This has led to a tightening of the regulations, including moratoria for opening new farms in Catalonia. Bioinspired Materials seeks to turn this problem into an opportunity by following the principles of the circular economy: “Now, decontamination costs money, but if we use the slurry to make marketable products, not only do we decontaminate but we can also get an economic return”, Macía affirms.

The company’s technology is able to obtain useful molecules from slurry using physicochemical and biological treatments that include the use of microorganisms. Thus, it produces raw material to make high nutritional value feed for livestock and aquaculture, a product which is “more efficient that conventional ones in economic and environmental terms”, according to the researcher.

Moreover, the spin-off is working on a molecule to obtain a highly resistant adhesive. Its aim is to develop a product free of formaldehyde, a carcinogenic substance widely used in adhesives and binders for the wood and construction industries.

Goal: a pilot plant

Once these ideas have been proved to work in the laboratory, the promoters of the project want to test them on an industrial scale, and its next goal is to build a pilot plant. “To take this step, we need funding and industry partners”, Macía explains. For this reason, they have founded the company and are in contact with different groups of investors.  In addition, they plan to apply to different sources of competitive funding.

UPF has supported the creation of the spin-off company in view of its commitment to transferring knowledge and technology to society. It has done so via its transfer office, the Innovation Unit – UPF Business Shuttle, and the innovation management company UPF Ventures, promoted and participated in by the University itself. Moreover, Bioinspired Materials was the ex aequo winner of Premi a la transferència de coneixement 2019 of UPF Board of Trustees. 

Also, the project received aid in the ‘Product’ category of the Knowledge Industry programme (reference 2018 PROD 00020), awarded by the Agency for Management of University and Research Grants (AGAUR) of the Government (Generalitat) of Catalonia to promote the introduction to the productive fabric of the knowledge generated by the Catalan scientific community. Bioinspired Materials was also one of the proposals selected by Barcelona Activa to enter its technology-based project accelerator, where it has received advice, support and training to foment the creation of the company.

 

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