Residues of agriculture are turned into high-value extraction compounds with a new biorefinery concept. The Fibre and Particle Engineering research group in the University of Oulu (UniOulu) is developing a concept in international collaboration, where proteins, oil, and nanocellulose and lignin products are extracted from grain crop residues. They can be turned into, for example, health-promoting functional foods, chemicals for water purification, and composite materials.

The Fibre and Particle Engineering research group act as coordinators in 2017-2020 in the EU funded large international BIOCODE project of the Network of the European Union, Latin America and the Caribbean Countries on Joint Innovation and Research Activities (ERANet-LAC) programme. Their partners come from Germany, Italy, Chile and Argentina. The accountable manager of the project is Associate Professor Henrikki Liimatainen of the University of Oulu.

The BIOCODE project is developing a new green technology method to fractionate compounds sequentially, by extraction, by hydrothermal destructuration, and with low melting eutectic solvent, for example. An advantage of the method is that it works for the processing of many kinds of biomaterials, and it can be integrated with industrial processes that produce cellulose and bioethanol. This enables the production of completely new products in an environment-friendly way. This concept will especially benefit farmers and crop producers, biomaterial refiners, machinery producers, and manufacturers of new bioproducts within the European Union and Latin America. Consumers will get to use new biomaterials, such as light-weight composites used in building, and functional food.

If the process concept proves workable, the vision is to commercialize the method for international markets. Utilizing agricultural residues as raw material creates new business opportunities for the small and medium-sized company market, and for big companies.