Research aims to improve rice processing and reduce waste

The research into rice processing could help to tackle food waste and nutritional problems

Food waste during rice processing and poor nutrition in parts of the Indian population could be tackled, after Sheffield Hallam University was awarded £400,000 to undertake research to help support economic growth in rural communities.

The university’s National Centre of Excellence for Food Engineering (NCEFE) is one of 13 industrial and academic partners in India and the UK involved in the £1M project funded by Innovate UK ­– the government’s scientific research funding body ­– aimed at improving rice processing and rice waste minimisation in India.

Success in this project would place the UK at the forefront of rice processing capability, as well as significantly improving the economic situation of those involved in rice growing and rice milling at a local level in India, the researchers claimed.

Optimise rice milling

The project aimed to optimise the rice milling process with innovative technology in order to reduce rice breakage – and therefore waste. It wanted to develop new uses for rice bran and rice husk, which were currently two major waste products from the milling process.

By addressing these challenges, it was anticipated that the project would develop a lower energy milling process that would reduce rice broken during the milling process from 28% to 8%. It also aimed to increase total rice output by up to 12%, resulting in an additional 10.6Mt of rice production every year in India, using significantly less energy.

The project would also investigate the processing of rice bran into nutritious food ingredients, providing potentially 7.72Mt of additional food, and the processing of rice husks into 5Mt of rice husk ash for building materials.

An overall aim of the project is to improve health outcomes of the Indian population by increasing the nutritional quality of rice output in India, where 65% of the population derive 40% of their daily nutritional intake from rice consumption.

Problems of malnutrition

It was hoped that the nutritional properties of rice bran could help tackle the problems of malnutrition, since phytonutrients  – chemicals that provide health protection– in rice bran help with blood sugar control, enhanced immune system function and cholesterol reduction. Researchers will produce a higher specification of bran by-product for use in high protein and fibre-rich food products for the local and national population.

In addition, the project will investigate the opportunities to recycle rice husk into ash with high silica content for the manufacture of sustainable materials for the construction industry.

“This research has the long-term ambition of helping to solve two serious issues in India ­ food waste and nutrition,” said Martin Howarth, director of the NCEFE.

“At present, there is a lot of wastage in rice harvesting and milling in India and other rice growing regions in the world. This project aims to review and improve this process in order to create value and function from rice husk and bran.”

Project aims

• Develop a lower energy milling process

• Increase total rice output by up to 12%

• Process rice bran into nutritious food ingredients

• Process rice husks into ash for building materials

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