Product diversification and value addition (PDVA)
The PDVA Research programme is intended to provide research and development support as an inalienable component in the modern technological world, where innovation and cost effectiveness are the key words. The department is expected to undertake novel and adaptive industrial research in the Kenyan sugar industry. Value of the Kenya sugar industry is derived primarily from sugarcane crop as an agricultural output. The broad objective of the Sugar Research Institute is to contribute towards enhancing economic value of sugarcane through its research programs.
The Product diversification and value addition program contributes to institute goals through three research themes.
Value of sugarcane is realized by industrial processes that extract varied product outputs, also end-products or raw materials for further processing into diverse commercialized products. The sugar processing research theme aims to generate solutions that multiply inherent value of sugarcane by creating multiple value streams through a context called product diversification. Sugarcane has hundreds of potential product output streams. However, the local industry is yet to optimally tap the vast value potential as incomes to producers.
The industry product portfolio is currently restricted to a few products. These are: plantation mill white and brown crystalline sugar product’s that find use as common household table sweeteners; molasses used as raw animal feeds and feedstock to alcoholic beverages production. The program endeavors to contribute towards expansion of above limited portfolio to satisfy national needs of consumers while enhancing income streams to sugar producers. The sugar processing theme further supports in-house research efforts towards sugarcane production agronomic improvement by providing laboratory analytical services to agronomist and cane breeding researchers, sugar companies, cane farmers and traders.
This theme collaborates with sugar companies in seeking context specific solutions in realms of sugarcane processing quality control and environmental management. This theme contributes towards entrenching sustainable sugar processing operations through determination of waste minimization solutions. The current endeavor is to create sustainable sugar supply chains by developing performance benchmarks to be applied in production efficiency management across the sugar products life cycles. This benchmarking will culminate in design of overall production systems sustainability management schemes called quality based cane payment systems.
Energy research theme
Sugarcane crop is ideally a biomass. Broad chemical composition of matured sugarcane stalks is comprised on average of: sucrose (8-14% w/w); fiber (16-22 % w/w), water (68-75% w/w); and other minor constituents. Sucrose is a carbohydrate food and source of metabolic energy. The fiber fraction constitutes 50% by weight of a sugarcane processing by-product called bagasse. This by-product finds use in factories as principal green fuel combusted to provide holistic energy demands of sugar processing operations. Its utilization makes sugar processing operations energy neutral by obviating costly external purchase of energy resources from external systems. This saving on energy expense is a value stream that enables lessened production costs and boosted earnings to sugar companies and cane farmers alike.
However, local companies produce excess of bagasse beyond immediate need. Hence, this product becomes the most significant solid waste problem for sugar factories. The energy research theme seeks to explore options for maximizing factory use of bagasse energy value as a value addition aspect, and also, determine alternative economic uses as potential income streams. Optimized bagasse use mitigates use of fossil fuels in factories and contributes to lessened greenhouse gas emissions. This research theme thus, is aligned to global climate change mitigation agenda.