In Taiwan, agricultural and fishery waste amounts to 4.89 million metric tons per year, impacting agricultural land and the environment. To solve this problem, Distinguished Professor Lin, Yao-Tung at the Department of Soil and Environmental Sciences and Professor Lin, Hui-Ling at the Department of Horticulture, National Chung Hsing University have teamed up to convert agricultural wastes to value-added recycling materials. The technology is applied to the preservation of vegetables and fruits and protection against bacteria. The research team wins the Technology Transfer Award - Bronze Medal Award in the 2020 Taipei Biotech Awards.
Developed by the research team, an innovative micro-nano value-added recycling technology for agricultural and fishery waste converts to agricultural and fishery waste, including rice straw, rice husk, pineapple leaves, corn leaves, bagasse, shrimp and crab shells, oyster shells, and soil minerals, to micro-nano recycling materials. The technology is applied in agricultural and environmental fields. A series of technologies and products are applied to (1) prolong shelf-life of fruits and vegetables, (2) protect the crops from plant pathogens, (3) inactivate the pathogenic microbes, and (4) degrade the environmental contaminants.
In terms of postharvest, , after moderate temperature control and key processing, raw materials refined by the micro-nano cycle can absorb plant hormones such as ethylene and made into vegetable and fruit storage containers. They prolong shelf-life of fruits and vegetable at room temperature to solve deterioration caused by cold chain disconnection in the logistics system. The process does not require costly cold chain equipment and services. For producers, it can save a lot of money in the process of transportation and storage while maintaining the shelf-life of fruits and vegetables.
In addition, this technology can also be used in conjunction with various hard material partitions to bind the logistics centers and transportation vehicles, which saves energy and maintains the shelf-life of fruits and vegetables.
On the part of disinfection, the research team converts agricultural and fishery wastes to antibacterial materials. Compared with commercially available antibacterial agents, such antibacterial materials are non-toxic with high biocompatibility and low cost, making them competitive in global emerging markets. With such antibacterial materials, there is no need to import foreign antibacterial materials for traditional industries in Taiwan.
Most foreign antibacterial materials are only applicable to Gram-positive bacteria, Gram-negative bacteria, mold, etc. In addition to analyzing Gram-positive bacteria (represented by staphylococcus aureus), Gram-negative bacteria (represented by escherichia coli), and mold (aspergillus niger), the research team also tested on Klebsiella pneumoniae (pathogenic bacteria). To ensure the safety of antibacterial material application, up to 5 biosafety tests were conducted, namely acute toxicity by the oral route, cytotoxicity, skin irritation, skin sensitivity, and genotoxicity test, more than those of products sold in the market.
This technology has been transferred to industry players such as Formosa Plastics Corporation, Hiwin Education Foundation, Jackson Cutting Board Co., Ltd., YFY Inc., TZY Feng Technology Co., Ltd., USI Corporation, and Mr.Click Co., Ltd. and has supported the establishment of two start-ups (Agri-Tech Co., Ltd. and Tian Fu Biotechnology Co., Ltd.). A total of 27 seminars on industry-academia collaboration/technology transfer were held. Formosa Plastics Corporation, Hiwin Education Foundation, Jackson Cutting Board Co., Ltd. and Agri-Tech Co., Ltd. teamed up with National Chung Hsing University to participate in this competition and won the award.
In terms of postharvest, the “circular application in the disinfection and postharvest with antibacterial agent derived from agricultural waste” can increase the marginal interest of Taiwan’s export in relation to agricultural preservation with an estimated output value of NT$277 billion. As to disinfection, it can achieve the localization of key antibacterial materials, with an estimated output value of NT$200 billion to NT$300 billion, an increase of 50 to 100 times. On the whole, the research team adds value to agricultural and fishery wastes based on the micro-nano technology and the concept of circular economy. In addition to reducing environmental pollution, it also furthers the upgrading of traditional industries and sustainable agriculture.
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(Advertisement of Department of Economic Development, Taipei City Government)