Based on current average yields of wheat per hectare and the saccharide content of wheat grain, it is feasible to produce wheat-based alternatives to many petrochemicals. However, the requirements in terms of wheat utilization would be equivalent to 82% of current production if intermediates and primary building blocks such as ethylene, propylene, and butadiene were to be produced in addition to conventional bioproducts. If only intermediates and bioproducts were produced this requirement would fall to just 11%, while bioproducts alone would require only 7%. These requirements would be easily met if the global wheat yield per hectare of cultivated land was increased from the current average of 2.7 to 5.5 tonnes ha–1 (well below the current maximum). Preliminary economic evaluation taking into account only raw material costs demonstrated that the use of wheat as a generic feedstock could be advantageous in the case of bioproducts and specific intermediate petrochemicals. Gluten plays a significant role considering the revenue occurring when it is sold as a by-product. A process leading to the production of a generic fermentation feedstock from wheat has been devised and evaluated in terms of efficiency and economics. This feedstock aims at providing a replacement for conventional fermentation media and petrochemical feedstocks. The process can be divided into four major stages – wheat milling; fermentation of whole wheat flour by A. awamori leading to the production of enzymes and fungal cells; glucose enhancement via enzymatic hydrolysis of flour suspensions; and nitrogen/micronutrient enhancement via fungal cell autolysis. Preliminary costings show that the operating cost of the process depends on plant capacity, cereal market price, presence and market value of added-value by-products, labour costs, and mode of processing (batch or continuous).
- Generic feedstock