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Formulation of Biodegradable Nursery Pots from Poultry Feather Keratin

Investigators
General, John
Institutions
Cronus, LLC
Start date
2009
End date
2010
Objective
Cronus and its partners will pursue their interest in converting biomass from agricultural feed stocks into forms that can be used in industrial processes, including the polymer industry, using a patented pending process to efficiently convert macroscopically diverse material into a powder with uniform flow characteristics. In collaboration with USDA-ARS researchers, we will demonstrate that the process will convert biomass effectively into forms fully compatible with polymer formulation. The USDA-ARS will provide processing expertise and the laboratory capability and chemical expertise to formulate and characterize polymers made from the Cooperator\'s novel process. To ensure that the prototype is successful, an interface between those producing the agricultural feed stocks and the effective process needs to be developed.

The objective of the USDA-ARS CRADA is: 1) to convert biomass from agricultural feed stocks into forms that can be used in industrial processes, including the polymer industry. The intent of this CRADA is to optimize the biomass processing parameters such that, beginning with one feedstock, high quality end products can be generated directly using regular commercial polymer processing equipment. USDA-ARS researchers will formulate prototype end-products from the biomass feed stocks and assess the physical properties of the end-product; 2) to use the biomass produced to demonstrate effectiveness of the technology in an end-product driven commercial process; and 3) to determine the remaining research and development steps required for scaling up the process to production scale.

The goal of the technical proposal is to provide sufficient palletized material to a manufacturer of nursery pots in order to successfully produce several pots for evaluation and validation. Further, licensing parameters will be defined so that a specific manufacturer will be identified. This project will define the process to 1) to convert poultry feathers into forms that can be used in industrial processes, including the polymer industry, optimizing processing parameters such that, beginning with feathers from the poultry industry, high quality end products can be generated directly using regular commercial polymer processing equipment; 2) to use the end product made to demonstrate effectiveness of the technology in an end-product driven commercial process; 3) to have a prototype processing plant in operation that can and does process poultry feathers in quantities required for polymer process optimization; and 4) to determine the remaining steps required for scaling up the process to production scale.

This project is expected to take six months and will proceed in an interactive process until the overall goal is achieved. Funding will guide technical assistance to develop a comprehensive feasibility study of a poultry feather processing plant on the Eastern Shore of Maryland or Delaware to produce plastic feedstock for injection molding in areas affected by the project. This feasibility study will be conducted by the project team to address economic, market, technical, financial and management feasibility.

More information
NON-TECHNICAL SUMMARY: Situation: The U.S. poultry industry annually produces two billion pounds of feathers; considered waste biomaterials, they are converted into low value protein for use in animal feed. Feathers are not utilized for their unique structural properties as strong, lightweight fiber made of the protein keratin, which can be used to enhance the strength of polymers. The USDA Beltsville Agricultural Research Center has developed several processes for feathers tailored to their respective market application. Also, a major environmental issue currently facing the $11.2 Billion floriculture industry is the disposal of plastics (e.g., nursery containers) which are exempt from the plastics recycling stream due to the use of resins in production. According to the EPA, more than 29 million tons of non-biodegradable plastic waste ends up in landfills each year. Purpose: The processing of chickens is the number one agricultural activity of Maryland\'s Eastern Shore, generating by-products which could improve the bottom line of the industry. Developing alternative markets may be critical to the industry as it is anticipated that the Food and Drug Administration will issue rules restricting their use as an ingredient in chicken feed similar to actions taken for cattle relative to mad cow disease. The key components of this project will examine commercialization, market analysis and strategic planning, providing the basis for a comprehensive feasibility study of a poultry feather processing plant on the Eastern Shore of Maryland or Delaware to produce plastic feedstock for injection molding.

APPROACH: For the purposes of this project, market analysis will employ the applicable steps of the Goldsmith Technology Commercialization Model. Referring to this model, this project will address the Introduction step of the Development Stage. The specific steps in these two phases are Pre-Production Prototype and Market Validation. Pre-Production Prototype includes the development of a pre-production prototype; the determination of pre-production processes; selection of final product materials and components; selection of manufacturing procedures, equipment, and tools; assessment of specification conformance; testing of product performance, reliability, and quality; design of a field support system; and the calculation of full production costs. Market Validation will conduct limited product sales; quantify the volume, rate, and demographics of sales; design and implement a customer survey; analyze customer feedback (price, design, function, packaging, delivery); and transmit design modifications to technicians.

Funding Source
Nat'l. Inst. of Food and Agriculture
Project source
View this project
Project number
MDK-2009-00369
Accession number
217880
Categories
Packaging Residues
Viruses and Prions
Legislation and Regulations
Policy and Planning
Commodities
Meat, Poultry, Game