Clemson Researchers Target Industry's Needs

By Annel K. Greene, PhD, Professor and Center Director
Clemson University Animal Co-Products Research and Education Center

In early February, a request for pre-proposals was sent to the faculty and staff of Clemson University’s College of Engineering and Sciences, College of Business and Behavioral Sciences, and College of Agriculture, Forestry, and Life Sciences for the Animal Co-Products Research and Education Center (ACREC) Research Committee review. A survey conducted by Dr. David Meeker, director of research for the Fats and Proteins Research Foundation (FPRF), listing the highest priority topic areas reported by FPRF members was provided to Clemson University and included in the request for pre-proposal as a guide to direct potential researchers to projects desired by the rendering industry.

In response to the request for pre-proposals, 11 projects were submitted by Clemson University researchers from two colleges. Pre-proposals were collated into a booklet provided to ACREC Research Committee members two weeks in advance of their spring meeting.

Attending the ACREC Research Committee meeting in late March were representatives from a majority of the sustaining FPRF members as well as additional guests from DarPro, Inc., Valley Proteins, Inc., and the Poultry Protein and Fat Council, along with Drs. Jessica Meisinger and David Meisinger, Meeker, and Nancy Foster, president of the National Renderers Association. A poster and pizza session was held one evening detailing all current projects and allowing renderers time to visit with graduate students. The next morning, members of the Clemson University Poultry Science Club prepared custom omelets for the guests before David Meisinger opened the meeting with his presentation entitled, “Investment in Technologies.” Researchers then gave presentations of their current and/or proposed research with questions and discussions following and continuing later at dinner that evening. The next morning, FPRF sustaining members and guests discussed the projects in a session closed to Clemson University employees. Six of the projects, described below, were selected for funding.

Dr. Mark A. Blenner is an assistant professor of chemical engineering. His proposed project for “Biocatalytic Conversion of Rendered Animal Fats to Value Added Products including Omega-3 Fatty Acids” will attempt to engineer a method for converting rendered animal fats into the polyunsaturated fatty acids found in fish oils.

Dr. Scott Husson, professor of chemical engineering, proposed to continue his work in evaluating membrane cleaning procedures and determining operational lifetimes for ultrafiltration membranes used to treat rendering facility wastewater. He will measure threshold fluxes on the membrane systems that allow wastewater treatment without chemical additives. Husson also will evaluate membrane cleaning protocols and use cleaning cycle data to estimate the approximate life expectancy of ultrafiltration membranes used for the primary treatment of rendering wastewater. This project fulfills the requested priority topic area in the FPRF survey that tied for the third most important area as chosen by renderers, “increasing efficiency and effectiveness of wastewater treatment.”

Dr. Christopher Kitchens, associate professor of chemical engineering, will continue his work in a pre-proposal entitled, “Carbon Dioxide Enhanced Pressing of Fat from Rendered Materials.” In this study, Kitchens will investigate using carbon dioxide as a green solvent for applications in the rendering industry. He will use carbon dioxide under pressure to extract fat from meat and bone meal in a pilot scale test facility at Crown Iron Works in Roseville, MN.

Dr. Srikanth Pilla, a new assistant professor of automotive engineering at the Clemson University International Center for Automotive Research, submitted a pre-proposal entitled, “Interactive and Integrative Engineering of Rendered Proteinaceous Materials Based Thermoset Biocomposites for High-Strength, Superior-Performance Applications.” In this study, Pilla will work to develop new composite materials for use in automotive applications. His goal is to produce strong, odor-free, cross-linked composite materials from rendered animal proteins.

Drs. Vladimir Reukov and Alexey Vertegel, research assistant professor and associate professor, respectively, in the Department of Bioengineering, proposed to continue their work on “Livestock Feed Preservatives Based on Antioxidant Enzymes Extracted from Animal Blood.” They will work along with David Meisinger to develop their start-up company for producing antioxidants from animal blood. They propose to evaluate and compare several methods of measuring antioxidant efficacy of their product, to optimize the formulation of their antioxidant when used with rendered fat, and to test for efficacy/shelf life with rendered fat. This project fulfills the requested priority topic area in the FPRF survey that tied for the fourth most important area as chosen by renderers, “prevention of oxidation of rendered fats.”

Drs. Daniel Whitehead and Frank Alexis, assistant professor of chemistry and assistant professor of bioengineering, respectively, proposed to continue their work on odor remediation in a project entitled, “Functional Nanomaterials for Remediating Rendering Odors.” Their work will conduct a proof-of-concept study to demonstrate their specifically engineered nanoparticles can capture and degrade odor-causing volatile organic by-products of the rendering process. This project fulfills the requested priority topic area in the FPRF survey that tied for the third most important area as chosen by renderers, “prevention of odors in rendering operations.”

Other proposed projects that were not funded included continuing studies to validate the thermal death time of pathogenic bacteria in rendered animal products and to correlate moisture content to water activity in rendered animal products in relationship to Salmonella survival. Another project to determine the identity of thermally resistant bacterial isolates in rendering materials that falsely test as Salmonella using Food and Drug Administration (FDA) procedures was proposed but not funded as well as a proposed project to develop a rapid Salmonella detection protocol that would target the specific serotypes of Salmonella that FDA has listed as important to animal feed safety. Finally, a proposal to study high fat poultry by-products as a supplement to late gestation beef cattle and its resultant impact on fetal programming for subsequent generations was also not selected for funding.

Interestingly, the six chosen projects from the 2014-2015 ACREC research agenda are all from the College of Engineering and Science, meaning that for the first time since inception of ACREC, no projects were chosen from the College of Agriculture, Forestry, and Life Sciences. This represents a distinctive paradigm shift from normal animal agriculture research funding, but has allowed renderers to communicate with engineers and scientists who previously had never heard of rendering.

June 2014 RENDER | back