Rice is the daily staple for the majority of the Indian population: 65% of Indians get 40% of their nutritional intake from rice. Yet only half of the rice from the original paddy reaches the consumer, because of poor storage, outdated milling processes and waste by-products that aren’t being utilised. This could be a thing of the past, thanks to a pioneering partnership between the UK and India.
The National Centre of Excellence for Food Engineering (NCEFE) is at the heart of this international partnership. Made up of 13 academic and industrial organisations in the UK and India, the project received £1.1m from the Newton Fund via Innovate UK to investigate rice processing and waste minimisation.
Joining forces with the NCEFE are engineering innovators and manufacturers at Koolmill and KMF, rice processors and traders at East End Foods, microwave designers at Process Technologies, meat-free protein producers Marlow Foods and food scientists at New Food Innovation group. Indian partners include rice equipment manufacturer and distributor Vishavkarma Machine Tools, rice processor Rajdhani Rice and Kuantum Papers Ltd, who will process the rice husks. The team is supported by research institutions IIT Roorkee and Punjab Agricultural University and NABI-CIAB.
Work is well underway to enhance a technology originally masterminded by Koolmill which will optimise the rice milling process, reducing breakage and also waste. The goal is to develop a lower energy milling process that will minimise the rice broken during the milling process by 20% and to increase total rice output by up to 12%.
Another way the project is breaking new ground is by examining the reuse of rice bran and rice husk waste streams from the milling process. The combination of people living in poverty and the recent economic growth has led to the growth of undernutrition and overnutrition in India. Processing rice bran into food ingredients could potentially provide 7.72 million tonnes of additional food to a nation facing major nutritional hurdles.
Researchers will also investigate the opportunities to recycle rice husk into ash for the manufacture of sustainable materials for the construction industry. Currently the majority of rice husk ash is sent to landfill in India. However, if it’s burnt at a low enough temperature, the resulting powder could be used in building materials and have a lower environmental impact.
With the potential to transform health outcomes and produce two new products from waste streams, the project’s impact on public health, the environment and rural economies in India should not be underestimated.
This international partnership is one of the most ambitious projects we’ve ever embarked upon. With 13 partners across the UK and India, effective collaboration and communication are critical to our success. That’s where our relationship with Sheffield Hallam really comes into its own. The National Centre of Excellence for Food Engineering’s experience of complex partnership working, collaborative research and technical expertise put us in a strong position. If we get this right, our outcomes could really transform the future of rice milling.
Alec Anderson, Koolmill
This research has the long-term goal of helping to solve two serious issues in India – food waste and nutrition. The project exemplifies the Centre's and Sheffield Hallam University's ability to tackle significant and sizable challenges in order to make a real-world difference.
Martin Howarth, director of the National Centre of Excellence for Food Engineering