ANAHEIM, Calif., -- Tomorrow Water, an innovative total solution provider of water treatment technologies and eco-friendly waste management solutions, has been awarded a highly competitive Small Business Innovation Research Program (SBIR) grant by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA). The funding will support the development of its environmentally friendly technology that extracts and upcycles valuable keratin from discarded animal rendering waste. This new technology is one of the many innovations created by Tomorrow Water in its pursuit of a "clean and beautiful world beyond waste."
The global livestock industry creates billion of tons of waste every year. While carcasses, offal and bones can be converted into useful products at rendering plants, millions of tons of feathers, nails, hair, and wool end up in landfills. This discarded waste slowly decays in landfills to produce vast amounts of methane and other greenhouse gases.
This waste stream is rich in keratin, the fibrous protein that gives hair and nails their strength and structure. Demand for keratin has skyrocketed in the cosmetics and health products industries, thanks to its beneficial dermatological and anti-aging properties. Existing technologies that extract keratin from animal waste use large amounts of chemicals such as ammonia, generating significant chemical waste. The technologies can also alter the chemical structure of the keratin, potentially affecting its usefulness.
Unlike existing keratin extraction processes, Tomorrow Water's cost-effective new technology Draco thermal hydrolysis extracts keratin from animal rendering waste without the use of any caustic or environmentally damaging chemicals. Draco uses only water, heat, and pressure to extract keratin from animal waste in a process called thermal hydrolysis. Once liberated and solubilized by Draco the keratin can be efficiently purified using FMX®, another Tomorrow Water technology. This special ultrafiltration system separates the keratin from the Draco-treated animal waste slurry. Notably, the Draco process preserves keratin's original chemical structure as much as possible, which is important for downstream uses in pharmaceutical products and high-end cosmetics.
The first $100,000 SBIR grant awarded to Tomorrow Water by the USDA will fund Phase I development of the Draco-FMX® technology, in which the company will refine and optimize the process before scale-up begins. After Phase I, Tomorrow Water will apply for Phase II SBIR funding, which would provide more than $600,000 for prototype scale-up and field demonstration work.
Tomorrow Water's application for this prestigious SBIR grant was supported by Pilgrim's Pride, one of the largest poultry producers in the US. Pilgrim's Pride recognizes the beneficial effect Draco could have on the environmental impact and carbon footprint of the global livestock industry.
Dr. Ken Tasaki, Vice President of Business Development for Tomorrow Water, says the company's Draco technology is a good example of "upcycling" of high-value resources from low-value waste streams.
"This provides a truly eco-friendly and cost-efficient solution to convert a significant waste stream – animal rendering waste – into a substantial profit stream," says Dr. Tasaki. "Innovative new processes like ours are crucial to the success of the global push toward a 'circular economy,' wherein waste is minimized and valuable resources are recycled."
"Make no mistake – keratin is valuable, with some estimates placing it easily over $1,700 USD per kilogram depending on the final end product. I am very proud of our team for what they have accomplished with this technology, which has been in the works for over four years. Now it's time to accelerate its development and get it out into the world."
About Tomorrow Water
Through innovative technology and thought-leadership, Tomorrow Water is minimizing the global environmental impact of wastewater treatment, while delivering sustainable, practical, and economical solutions. Tomorrow Water is committed to building sustainable waste and wastewater management systems, integrating low-energy wastewater treatment, energy production and other crucial elements of modern infrastructure whenever feasible.
SOURCE Tomorrow Water