Whey to go – top turnout for Glanbia project

Funding announcement for dairy research project brings out big guns

Commissioner Phil Hogan in Europe House on Thursday to mark the awarding of €22m in EU funding for the Glanbia-led AgriChemWhey project. Photograph: Jason Clarke.

Commissioner Phil Hogan in Europe House on Thursday to mark the awarding of €22m in EU funding for the Glanbia-led AgriChemWhey project. Photograph: Jason Clarke.

 

It’s not often that the announcement of EU funding for a relatively obscure bio-engineering project manages to attract an EU commissioner, a Government Minister and the head of Enterprise Ireland.

But Phil Hogan, Michael Creed and Julie Sinnamon were in Europe House, the European Commission’s Irish HQ, in Dublin on Thursday to mark the awarding of €22 million in EU funding for the Glanbia-led AgriChemWhey project.

The turnout reflects the potential of the technology and the fact that the Kilkenny-based company has a proven track record in the area.

The project aims to convert the main waste products of dairy processing, whey permeate and delactosed whey permeate, into a series of high-value bio-commodities, including biodegradable plastics, fertiliser and minerals for human nutrition.

If it proves successful and commercial – and there are strong indications it will – the AgriChemWay project plans to develop a bio-refinery at Lisheen, Co Tipperary, with the potential to kick-start another dairy spin-off industry to complement the protein nutrition sector.

The possibility of producing biodegradable plastics is particularly interesting in the context of the current outcry over plastic pollution.

The fact that the technology has been developed by Glanbia in conjunction with scientists in University College Dublin and Trinity College Dublin gives it extra heft.

Glanbia has transformed its business by channelling protein removed from whey, which was also once regarded as a waste product and a headache for the processor, into the high-value performance nutrition market

Now it goes into a suite of products – powders, shakes and bars – which claim to build muscle, reduce fat, repair tired limbs or arrest ageing.

Last year Glanbia’s performance nutrition division was the most profitable part of the business, generating €1.1 billion in sales, and the company is now the de facto global leader in the $10 billion performance nutrition market. Hence the optimism around its new venture.