Processing grass to extract ‘valuable constituents’ in Cork

A grass biorefinery project hosted a national demonstration day at Shinagh Farm, Bandon, Co. Cork, yesterday, Thursday, July 11.

The project – titled Biorefinery Glas – which is being coordinated by IT Tralee is trialling a small-scale grass biorefinery to extract the “valuable constituents” of grass in an effort to create opportunities for farmers to diversify incomes.

The aim of the project is to address sustainability challenges in Irish agriculture by encouraging farmers into the circular bio-economy.

According to the project organisers, “this will deliver and support new income streams and drive business diversification”.

The entities involved in the project are: IT Tralee; Carbery Group; Barryroe Co-op; University College Dublin (UCD); and Grassa and Wageningen University in the Netherlands.

The grass biorefinery project is a European Innovation Partnership project that is funded through the Department of Agriculture.

How does it work?

The grass biorefinery uses an extruder to separate grass as it comes into the machine.

Using a heating process and a centrifuge, it splits the grass into fibre and liquid.

The fibre is solid and is called ‘press cake’, which resembles haylage. It is wrapped up like a standard silage bale and can be used for winter feed.

Meanwhile, the juice from the grass contains a lot of protein, which when dried can be up to about 90% dry matter; this can be used for feeding to pigs and chickens.

The remaining residue

From the remaining residue, different types of filtration techniques result in a high-value sugar product, while the remaining residue can either be spread as a fertiliser or used in anaerobic digesters.

According to the project organisers, this approach “improves the efficiency of nitrogen use for milk production, while providing pigs and chickens, who would otherwise not be able to access grass protein, with an indigenous source of protein concentrate”.

Concluding, the statement said: “Given the EU’s dependency on feed imports, and the commissions focus on developing a protein plan for Europe, a mechanism for improving protein efficiency is timely.”