The biorefinery is comparable to a living organism with enzymes and nutrients acting on corn mash throughout the production process. The process breaks down corn kernels into their constituent parts, namely starch, protein, oils and fiber. These elements have the potential to create energy, nutrition, health and biochemical products.
The potential for bioproducts is best understood by looking at the constituent parts of grain from which they are developed.
The biorefining process starts with local feed corn, which is milled to flour. Water is added to the flour to make a mash and enzymes are added to this to convert the maize starch into simple sugars that are digestible by the yeast. These sugars are converted through a complex fermentation and distillation process to produce 99% pure ethanol.
The protein in grain is a valuable feed product known as DDGS that strengthens the European food chain, contributing to food security by reducing Europe’s protein deficiency. ClonBio feed products are all antibiotic free and GMO free, labels that are becoming increasingly important in the European agri-food sector. Valuable vegetable oils (corn oil) are also extracted from the corn and marketed as animal feed enhancers.
Removing the starch (and fiber) from the grain dramatically enhances the nutrient value of the corn. Entering the process, each kernel contains 70% starch, 9% protein, 4% fat and 10% fibre. At the end of the refining process nutrients in the DDGS have increased to 31% protein, 9% fat and 30% fibre, while the starch element has been reduced to just 3%. The DDGS is exported to countries all over Europe and beyond. New protein bioproducts under development include enriched protein feeds and speciality fish feed.
The fibre found in grain has inherent nutritional benefits for enhancing foods. Fibre has a well-established nutritional value. Fibre used as a prebiotic promotes healthy gut bacteria and is now believed to have impacts on everything from serious illness to mental health. The full potential of fibre as a medicinal and heath food supplement is yet to be realised.
The independent Dublin based Pure Fiber Ltd has been mentored by ClonBio to develop new generation prebiotics as a feed ingredient. The prebiotics are composed of oligosaccharides from arabinoxylan (AXOS). AXOS is a new generation of soluble prebiotic fibers obtained from the bran of corn that is scheduled to be launched in 2019. The AXOS is extracted through a fibre separation and enzymatic process at the Group’s Pannonia Bio biorefinery.
The process nutrient residues, through a fungal process, can be used to produce Chitin and Chitosan. Chitin is a glucosamine derivative and found in crustaceans and the cell walls of fungi. Chitosan, derived from Chitin processing, is a natural, green, biocompatible and biodegradable, and positively charged biopolymer. It has a wide range of emerging applications across water treatment, agriculture, cosmetics, health care and medical industries.