An Irish food and agri-business consultancy firm has been chosen to take part in a circular economy initiative to convert poultry industry waste into raw materials.

Farrelly and Mitchell, based in Dublin (with offices in the Middle East and Africa), has been named in a consortium drawn from seven EU countries for the project to turn waste from the poultry industry into bio-based products for agricultural applications.

The project is under the auspices of the EU-funded ‘Project UNLOCK‘ and ‘KARMA2020‘ initiatives.

“I am delighted that Farrelly & Mitchell has been selected for what looks a game-changing project in terms of the European Union’s sustainable agriculture ambitions.”

Malachy Mitchell, the firm’s managing director, said: “We look forward to working on Project UNLOCK with our partners across the EU in addressing the technical, logistical and market challenges crucial to delivering a project set to boost the circular economy.

“The building of economically viable, environmentally sustainable value chains are essential to driving Europe’s activities and global leadership role in combatting climate change,” he added.

The Irish firm will perform feasibility studies that will be aimed at establishing the technical and logistical needs for the project to be fulfilled.

In Europe, around 3.6 million tonnes of feathers are generated per year as waste from the poultry sector. Around 25% is used for animal feed or fertilisers while the rest is disposed of in landfills or incinerated.

Feathers contain nearly 90% keratin, a valuable protein and potential source for biodegradable materials. The project is aimed at developing efficient conversion techniques for feather processing to enable large-scale manufacturing of feather-based raw materials.

Part of the work of the four-year project also centres around designing sustainable value chains for feather-based products.

The 15 organisations involved in the project held a online ‘kick-off’ meeting on April 28.

By the end of the project it is intended to have two commercial feather biorefineries established.