In recent years demand for almonds has sky-rocketed on the back of consumers reaching out for dairy-free alternatives, putting almond milk firmly on the list of grocery stables for many households in the US.
However, this growth has left almond processors with a dilemma: what to do with growing volumes of hulls, shell and woody materials?
Targeting zero waste
The Almond Board of California says that its members have been highly proactive in using these materials and thus avoiding land fill, but the new research aims to raise the bar and find new, even more useful and value-adding applications that also contribute to zero waste goals.
Last week executives at the board unveiled ambitious research plans that will not only target applications in the cosmetics field, but also in the fields of pharmaceuticals and plastics.
“We have shifted our mindset to view agriculture coproducts as an opportunity, not a problem,” said Glenda Humiston, PhD, of UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources.
“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.”
Dr. Humiston made the comments during the annual Almond Conference, held in Sacremento, California last week, during a presentation that specifically targeted the topic of almond coproducts and byproducts.
Skin care products set to benefit
The board is looking to invest further into research that has also shown how sugar can be extracted from almond hulls and used for food ingredients or fuel.
However, once the sugar is extracted, researchers believe that further research could help find new applications for the remaining hulls, making a fibrous material that can be added to skin care products such as moisturizers, to name one example.
Researchers are looking into how husks can be heated to very high temperatures to produce a charcoal-like product that can used to create stronger materials, specifically for biodegradable plastics such as garbage bags and rubber tires.
“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.