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Rodenburg Tony Starch a game changer in the chemical industry with EU money

Innovation
19 | 03 | 2024

Rodenburg's Tony Starch division, based at the Green Chemistry Campus (GCC) in Bergen op Zoom, has secured a grant of nearly EUR 4.4 million from the European Just Transition Fund (JTF). In addition, the company will also receive co-financing from the state and province of Noord-Brabant. With the grant, the company will build a pilot plant for the development and production of starch-based platform molecules, a sustainable green building block for the chemical industry. Today, the chemical industry often uses chemicals from fossil sources; these are finite and have a high CO2 footprint.

Basic building blocks of chemistry, or platform molecules, are now often made from fossil fuels, such as natural gas and petroleum. “For at least sixty years it has been known that starch molecules, from potato cutting starch, for example, can also be used as platform molecules.

This starch is created when potatoes are cut into French fries or potato chips.For a long time, it was simply not profitable enough to get started with this.Circularity and sustainability are now a hot topic and part of CO2 reduction policies. So our subsidy project DORP, has the wind at its back,” says Thijs Rodenburg, director of the Rodenburg family business.

Applications

With the grant, Rodenburg will build a pilot plant to further scale up production of the platform molecule and work toward a design for a full-scale demo plant. The project will also test various applications of the starch molecule. Think of application in packaging, tissues, ingredients for cosmetics or the absorbent material in diapers. Rodenburg: “We see endless application possibilities for our molecule, because eventually the entire chemical industry must become greener. It is, of course, entirely contemporary to use the residual streams of food-producing industries for this purpose. Especially when you consider that they are produced and used locally.”

Residual streams

Three generations of Rodenburg have been involved with using residual streams.
“My grandfather had a farm and delivered potatoes to the factory. There they wanted him to take the residual products – the cutting starch and peels – back,” says Thijs Rodenburg.”He decided to turn them into animal feed.My father went a step further and turned starch molecules into bioplastics. My brother and I took over in 2017 and now focus on producing platform molecules from starch.”

Production on a larger scale

Rodenburg is not only using the European grant to develop new applications. With the money, the company will also validate and test production on a larger scale. “It is important that we can demonstrate to our customers that our molecules are satisfactory and that we can turn volume. Our product must be a drop-in for the chemical industry. This means that they hardly need to change their machinery to use our molecules, making it easy for them to go green.”

Scaling up

The pilots we are going to run in the factory should show where the bumps are before we can open a full scale factory.
“The essence of innovation is that you never know exactly what you will encounter, but I am confident that it will succeed, especially since we are going to scale up considerably in the near future. We are hiring application technologists, starch technologists, chemists and market researchers, among others.” Rodenburg finds it remarkable that personnel are easy to find in today’s tight labor market.”People want to work at an innovative company with a purpose.With this project we are really going to make a difference and that appeals to young employees in particular.”

Making headway

Rodenburg believes it is important to replace chemicals from fossil raw materials with bio-based raw materials as soon as possible in order to meet the 2030 and 2050 climate goals. “Thanks to the JTF grant, SME companies like us can gain momentum. To make a real impact, you have to be able to produce on a large scale while developing new applications. Once you are in the next phase and there is cash flow from the project, it is easier to find funders. Our ultimate ambition is to build a full scale factory.