Development of a sustainable multilayer food packaging system using functional fractions from babassu nuts

The babassu palm (Attalea speciosa) is native to the southern region of the Amazon Basin in South America and grows over an area of 180,000 km2. The palms reach a height of up to 30 m and can yield up to 2000 fruit in a year. The fruit consist of a fiber-containing exocarp, a starch-rich mesocarp, and a lignin-rich endocarp which contains up to six oil-rich seeds. The babassu palm is not cultivated in plantations. It grows wild in the forest and the nuts are largely harvested by local people.

The endocarp, and sometimes the whole fruit, is burnt by the steel industry and for charcoal production­. The oil is used in the cosmetics industry and the starch is used as chicken feed. Further utilization of components of the fruit is being little exploited at present.

The aim of the project is to recover the various fractions from the nuts and to efficiently utilize these materials. This will enhance the value creation chain. Efficient fractionating processes will be developed for recovering fiber and starch from the exocarp and mesocarp and for extracting proteins from the press cake produced during oil recovery.

The various fractions will be used in medium-barrier food packaging. The fractions must therefore be able to be processed using commonly used coating technologies.

 ITAL will be responsible for preparing the raw materials and the fractionation. The subsequent extraction of proteins from babassu press cake, and if necessary their modification, will be undertaken at the Fraunhofer IVV. In addition, the composition and properties of the starch fraction prepared at ITAL will be investigated. Both fractions will be used to develop film-forming formulations at Fraunhofer IVV and this will be followed by coating trials on paper at ITAL.