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Straw Innovations

Straw Innovations, one of our fellow tenants at Rothamsted Enterprises, is an agriculture-based venture that aims to make use of leftover rice straw.   The company was founded in 2016, by Craig Jamieson, as a spin-out from world-leading International Rice Research Institute, based in the Philippines.   The company is addressing two key problems: i) How to get the straw out of rice fields economically; and ii) How to upcycle it to make eco-friendly, commercially viable products.

Craig Jamieson, the Founder and Director of Straw Innovations, is a specialist in Integrated Food-Energy Systems (IFES) that simultaneously increase food and fuel production, build rural prosperity and protect the environment.  Craig started his career in horticulture, but after taking a Masters Degree in Sustainable Rural Development (with his thesis in bioenergy), soon found his way to the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines.  Craig brought together a consortium and was successful in securing funds for a three-year project to look at why rice straw is not being used for bioenergy.

Rice is the world’s number 1 food crop. However, for every kilo of grain we eat, about the same amount of straw is produced. Rice straw is an environmental disaster: there are about 750 million tonnes produced each year in Asia, of which around 300 million tonnes are burned for disposal. Much of the rest is left to rot in the fields where it emits methane – a greenhouse gas (GHG) more than 80 times worse than CO2 over a 20 year period. As a result, rice is responsible for more GHG emissions than the whole of the aviation industry combined.

When the three-year project finished, Craig formed Straw Innovations in 2016, to continue the work.  He got 3 years funding in place – a combination of life savings and co-funding from the UK government – to start building the company by developing its green technologies and pilot plant in Laguna, Philippines.

The first challenge was to collect the rice straw.  The team developed adaptations to combine harvesters to make it possible to harvest the rice grain and straw simultaneously. A valuable co-benefit is that it also reduces the amount of rice grains lost in the field, thanks to its more efficient threshing mechanism. The company is now preparing to take its innovations to scale, to benefit local rice farmers, consumers and the environment. The straw will be processed for various markets, including livestock, mushroom production and bioenergy. We look forward to following progress!

Craig has continued to work with organisations in both the UK and the Philippines, including the Supergen Bioenergy Hub at Aston University and University of Philippines Los Banos, with information exchange going both ways and benefitting both organisations.  As Straw Innovations has moved towards commercialisation, private sector partnerships have become more important.  The company is piloting its technology in conjunction with Philippines rice company SL Agritech Corporation and UK based Koolmill, who have an energy efficient rice milling technology.   Such partnerships are key to Straw Innovations progress!

You can find out more about Straw Innovations and their latest progress on their website.

If you would like to know more about this fascinating company, please contact John Allies at john@strategicallies.co.uk

Images courtesy of Straw Innovations & Pixabay.