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Partnership between Abertay University, innovators and food industry helps stop businesses from breaking new law

16 Dec 2014

Abertay University has been awarded funding to help the food industry adapt to new legislation that will affect tens of thousands of businesses across the country.

The new legislation will take the form of a ban on food waste being allowed to enter into the drainage system, and will come into full force in January 2016.

The ban is being enforced because foods such as rice and potatoes release large quantities of starch when they are processed. This builds up in the pipes and eventually blocks them, causing extensive - and costly - damage.

The ban will affect businesses such as fish and chip shops, fast food outlets and Chinese takeaways, who will all need to install some kind of mechanism that will limit the amount of starch that goes down the drain.

To help address this, the Fife-based fruit and vegetable wholesaler Ivan Wood and Sons has come up with an innovative new design for a filtration system that will enable businesses to comply with the new legislation.

The company will be working with Food Innovation @ Abertay (FIA) - the University’s product development and innovation centre - which has a proven track-record in using its academic expertise and state-of-the-art facilities to help Scotland’s food and drink businesses grow and develop.

The design that FIA will be working on was thought up by Malcolm Wood, Managing Director at Ivan Wood & Sons, who realised he would need to find a way for his own business - which processes 30,000kg of potatoes a week to make Woody’s Chips - to comply with the new legislation.

He spent a year developing a working prototype then, seeing a gap in the market, approached Interface - the hub which connects Scottish businesses to the expertise within Scotland’s higher education institutions - to see if they could help him take his idea to the next level.

Aware of Abertay’s expertise in food innovation, Interface put Malcolm in touch with Abertay, and he and the university submitted a joint application for funding.

In recognition of the potential for the design, Innovate UK (formerly the Technology Strategy Board and sponsored by the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills) and the Scottish Funding Council awarded them a Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP).

This KTP will be used to build the filtration system, test it, and get it into commercial production in time for the new legislation coming into force.

Dr Jon Wilkin – Senior Food Technologist at Food Innovation at Abertay – explains:

“The design that Ivan Wood and Sons has come up with has huge potential for the catering industry because of the new legislation that’s being brought in by the Food Standards Authority and Scottish Environmental Protection Agency.

“There are over 10,500 fish and chips shops in the UK, and the same number again of Chinese and Indian takeaways, all of which produce large quantities of starch so will be affected by this new law.

“The hotel and restaurant trade will also have to adapt, so Malcolm has really hit on a great idea with this design, as there is a genuine commercial need for it.

“The Knowledge Transfer Partnership we've been awarded means we’ll be able to build his design commercially, ensure that it works and also investigate new ways to make use of the starch that’s extracted so that nothing goes to waste.

“His company - Ivan Wood and Sons - has already been contacted by third parties interested in obtaining their unique filtering system once the final model is available, so we’re looking forward to getting started on this new project and helping Ivan Wood and Sons develop a new area for their business.”

Malcolm Wood, Managing Director at Ivan Wood and Sons, said:

“When I first started working on this design, I had no idea it was going to have so much potential. I was really just building it for my own company so that we would be able to comply with the new rules.

“Although there are systems that exist which do something similar, they are priced far too high for most businesses to be able to afford them. I certainly couldn't, so I'm really pleased to have been awarded this KTP with Abertay, as it means my invention will be able to help other businesses that would otherwise be struggling to find a way to comply with the new legislation.”