Maia Hart, May 26 2020 | stuff.co.nz
Turning waste into hand sanitiser is the next project for a research winery based in Marlborough.
The Ministry of Business and Innovation (MBIE) has awarded $84,700 in funding to Bragato Research Institute (BRI) for a pilot study exploring turning grape marc into hand sanitiser.
Grape marc is the stems and seeds leftover after pressing – which in Marlborough can total as much as 46,000 tonnes of waste per year.
The study would look to turn winery waste into ethanol. Any sanitiser made in the initial eight-month study would be bottled and donated to Marlborough health workers and first responders.
Bragato Research Institute chief executive MJ Loza said the industry was continuously looking at alternative uses for grape marc, and Covid-19 presented BRI with “an opportunity to learn more about its properties while exploring a potential business case for a new product”.
“Using winery waste to produce ethanol for hand sanitiser is untested in the New Zealand context with our varietals. We haven’t had the capability to conduct a study like this in New Zealand until now,” Loza said.
“Managing grape marc has probably been viewed as a disposal issue. However, the marc itself is increasingly being studied for other properties.
“Transforming the wine industry’s waste into a value stream is a research priority. Every time we study grape marc, we learn a little more about its potential for a new commercial product.”
In the long term, the project would explore the business opportunity for the industry to turn waste into sanitiser, which would include “more information on costs, the infrastructure needed and technical findings specific to grape marc produced in New Zealand”.
“We know that grape marc is rich in valuable compounds. The challenges lie in finding a new economy for grape marc without creating a bigger environmental footprint, as well as finding a financially viable market for a new product,” Loza said.
Funding for the project was secured through MBIE’s Covid-19 Innovation Acceleration Fund, which was created to support research and projects in covid responses, and provide support to develop and deploy products, processes and services.
The project would be led by winery research manager Dr Tanya Rutan and research programme manager Dr Matias Kinzurik.
Bragato officially opened their research winery in February, based at the Blenheim campus of Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology.
The new facility will trial winemaking equipment, technologies and processes as well as sustainable winery operations.
It will also provide commercial research winemaking services to suppliers and the industry.