Fungi convert waste material into food, fuel and feed

Two of the world's major environmental challenges are a lack of resources and growing waste production. At the university there is a unique research environment that addresses both of these issues, using fungi that convert residuals and wastes from companies and households to food, feed and biofuels.

"We usually say there is no waste—only resources. But our knowledge is not enough to take utilise these resources. Ways2Taste is a new way of dealing with what would otherwise be waste," says Mohammad Taherzadeh, project leader and Professor in Bioprocess Technology at the University of Borås.

Another participant in the project is the Food & Nutrition Science department at Chalmers University of Technology, in addition to 18 regional companies. The project is funded by the European Regional Development Fund.

The waste products used in Ways2Taste come from bakeries, ice cream factories, breweries, feed companies and food stores. They are divided into three categories: from relatively pure, such as day-old bread from bakeries, to really dirty, such as slaughterhouse by-products and fertilisers. The researchers will investigate how, via different processes, fungi can be grown on the waste to produce a fungal biomass. From this, several different end products can be created, including food.

"It will be a climate-smart protein that can look like, for example, ground beef. But we will also work on producing pigments, bioplastics, animal feed and ethanol," says Mohammad Taherzadeh.

A goal of Ways2Taste is to go one step further when it comes to resource recovery than biogas production, incineration, or composting.

"The difference is that we can develop new materials and not only solely use the waste products as an energy source. Many materials will be scarce in the future and our process can play an important role," he says.

In the longer term, the research group wants to build a fungi centre in Borås.

"We want to be able to work nationally to develop useful fungi and help companies to use fungi in their production," said Mohammad Taherzadeh.

Read more about Resource Recovery

Text: Erika Danielsson
Photo: Suss Wilén