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Meet the Indian-origin biotechnologist turning food waste into fuel in Australia

Dr Kiran Mahale believes this could solve the world's fuel problems and give a cheap and eco-friendly alternate option.

Each year Australians waste around 7.6 million tonnes of food across the supply and consumption chain. According to experts, this wastage equals about 312kg per person which is equivalent to around one in five bags of groceries or $2,000 to $2,500 per household per year. The Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment (AWE) has observed that this food waste costs around $36.6 billion each year to the Australian economy.

Dr Kiran Mahale, a 38 years old Research Scientist from the University of Southern Queensland (USQ), Toowoomba has discovered an innovative approach to convert Agricultural and food processing waste to value-added products like nutraceutical, important bioactive compounds and Ethanol to blend with petrol to produce efficient E10 fuel. 

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Dr Kiran Mahale (Facebook)

Dr Mahale, who is orginally from Shada district Nandurbar in Maharashtra, India, received his Master of Biotechnology (Honours) from Deakin University in 2011 and Ph.D. in 2021 from the University of Southern Queensland (USQ-Australia) in food waste as a source of energy: conventional and innovative approach.

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He told The Australia Today that since childhood he was taught to respect food and not to waste it. Dr Mahale mentioned that even Hindu Vedas say: “Anna he purn Bramha” (food is next to God). This led to his interest in researching on ways to utilize agricultural and food processing waste for value-added products and energy production and storage devices. Dr Mahale adds:

“Reducing food waste is respectful to the growers who spent their lives growing it. Food is meant to be consumed not thrown. I first started looking at winery waste. I found after they had crushed the grapes and taken the juice, the residue was discarded.”

The solid discarded residue, according to Dr Mahale, actually has “many different chemical compounds which are pharmaceutically very important and in high demand.” He adds:

ONE OF THE COMPOUNDS I EXTRACTED AND PURIFIED WAS MALVIDIN-3-GLUCOSIDE, WHICH HAS A MARKET PRICE OF $317 FOR 10MG. THIS SHOWS THAT, IN SOME CASES, WINERIES CAN MAKE MORE MONEY BY REPROCESSING THEIR WASTE THAN SELLING WINE.” 

Dr Mahale believes this could solve the world’s fuel problems and give a cheap and eco-friendly alternate reusable fuel option.

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Dr Kiran Mahale (Facebook)

Dr Mahale says that repurposing food waste could also help save water. He believes that keeping in mind the recently signed MOU of rural and urban water management, his research could be used in bringing Australia and India closer as the carbon he made from processing left-over food has demonstrated as an excellent water purifier. He observes:

“Reducing food waste is respectful to the growers who spent their lives growing it. Food is meant to be consumed not thrown.”

Dr Mahale is confident that his research produces a value-added product that can both help keep the environment clean and provide additional revenue for the farmers.

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