Biorefining and Food Processing

Research horizons at Aberystwyth have recently been significantly expanded by the £40M investment in AberInnovation, a joint project between Aberystwyth University and BBSRC created to convert the grand challenges of food, climate change and clean energy into sustainable and prosperous opportunities for society. Facilities include state-of-the-art infrastructure, for pilot scale biorefining, food processing and associated analytics. For biorefining, this includes a Primary Processing facility (100-1,000 kg/hr) for juicing feedstocks and producing pressed material for further processing and fuel production (e.g., pelletisation). A Downstream Processing facility provides food grade: size fractionation and separation capabilities (50-2,000 litres/hr), spray drying to finished powder products, and steam explosion for pressurised hydrothermal pre-treatment. The Pilot Fermentation Facility provides food grade facilities at scales from 1-300 litres; and an automated system for assessing biogas potential of feedstocks. A Clean Room provides a high hygiene (ISO7) area for finishing (purifying/crystallising/drying) and bagging small scale products (mg to kg) in a controlled atmosphere environment. The Industrial Biotechnology Acceleration Suite provides state-of-the-art (aerobic and anaerobic) microbial phenotyping and fermentation platforms to identify novel microbes and characterise the metabolism of new production strains developed using synthetic biology. The Bioprospecting Suite provides extraction of samples at a range of scales (mg to kg), fractionation of semi-purified natural products and liquors, accelerated solvent extraction of natural product components, and high-performance counter current chromatography for rapid liquid-liquid separations.

AberInnovation includes food grade facilities for the testing, validation and improvement of existing and novel foods. This includes Food grade processing and laboratories conforming to BRC standards for meat; dairy and liquids, including pilot scale pasteurisation and filtration in batches (up to 1,000 litres) and continuous mode (5,000 litres/day); cheese, cultured milk products, butter and frozen product manufacturing (1-100 litre batches); and grains and pulses including on-site baking. A Demonstration Kitchen and Sensory Booths enable trained taste panels, served by a dedicated kitchen incorporating a computerised response system to allow real-time evaluation of organoleptic and sensory properties of novel foods. The facility enables assessments of food quality and composition, food characteristics, food storage, shelf life and food safety. The facility also integrates with the Aberystwyth University Well-being and Health Assessment Research Unit (WARU) to help develop the evidence base for health claims relating to novel foods. For example, the facility provides chemical content analysis, comprehensive profiling and structural elucidation for analysis of metabolites in extracts using ultra high-resolution LC and GC mass spectrometry, Triple Quadrupole mass spectrometry for targeted quantification of secondary metabolites in complex mixtures, and UPLC and GC for analysis and quantification of sugars, organic acids and alcohols.