March/April 2022 - 27

SUSTAINABILITY
them all over the country, " said Josette Lewis, chief scientific
officer for the Almond Board of California. " There are several
chicken farms in California, and countless egg farms in the
region, leading to a lot of opportunities to reuse these hulls. "
Though almond hulls are not currently cleared by the FDA
for human consumption, increased research in this area may
soon change that. Hulls have been tested for minimum residue
levels from any applications, and while they are testing below
minimum levels and will be further cleaned in any secondary
processing, hull use in food products is new territory.
" Historically, there are certain cultures that do eat green
almonds, which includes the hull. But we want to make sure
we've got the evidence to the highest standard on its safety, "
said Lewis.
In a world where alternative, naturally occurring food
products are not only becoming more accepted and sought
after, it may be possible for the hull to be used as a food
additive, like in nutrition bars where almonds are already
used. Thirty years ago, few people, if anyone, knew that
dairy cows enjoyed almond hulls, and as tools for achieving
zero waste constantly evolve, the industry continues to
sustainably make more while using less.
" The goal of the almond industry is not only to have
zero waste, " said Lewis, " but to add additional value
back into the industry by identifying the most
diversified and higher value uses of hulls. "
Torrefaction and 'carbon black'
Through the process of torrefaction, a form
of pyrolysis, where organic matter is heated in
a low-oxygen environment, the tree waste can
be made into a form of carbon known as 'carbon
black.' This can be mixed with recycled plastics,
improving their strength and heat stability, and
other materials, and can then close the loop on the
number of new plastics in the environment.
Another form - activated carbon - can be used in water
treatment processes, from food processing facilities to
municipal water systems and others, which requires large
amounts of activated carbon to filter water. Most of the
activated carbon comes from internationally imported items,
such as coconut husks. Using almond orchards for this
process has a two-pronged effect of reduced orchard waste
and cost effectiveness.
" The opportunity to use homegrown almond activated
carbon would be a great opportunity, " Lewis said. " One that
really scales and could add significant value to the almond
industry, as well as potentially reduce the carbon footprint of
our water treatment facilities. "
There are also companies - such as Yosemite Clean
Biofuels, Caribou Biofuels and West Biofuels - that are
able to take almond biomass and convert it into second
generation biofuels.
From whole orchard recycling, to livestock feed, to
potential use in cosmetics, diversification is key to zero
waste. Moving forward multiple projects will ultimately steer
the industry toward the use that makes the most sense.
" We're not guaranteed that any of these things will work
NATIONALNUTGROWER.COM 27
out or be attractive enough financially for the industries.
We're going to be displacing something else that they
currently use, " said Lewis. " We have a portfolio approach ...
if something were to really take off, over time, that might
displace some of the other uses or just diversify them. It's
hard to predict, but we'll be successful. "
Hitting the 2025 goals
Almond whole orchard recycling is the first major initiative
to use all of the byproducts of the orchard and could bring
some light to some other organic producers, leading the way
to create complete sustainability from orchards. Walnut
growers have started looking into utilization of byproducts,
and some fruit producers have invested into ways to utilize
pulp, peels and other materials.
There's also work being done to calculate true water
usage, as many products come out of the orchard, not just
the kernel. For example, hulls used as feed means a water
reduction in the growing of hay for the same purpose.
So how close is the almond industry to reaching its zero
waste goal?
" With zero waste, I would say we're there now. We don't
waste any products, " Lewis said. " We still would like to raise
the value - the 'optimal use' part - of that goal, and that's the
new journey that we're on. "
http://www.NATIONALNUTGROWER.COM

March/April 2022

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of March/April 2022

March/April 2022 - 1
March/April 2022 - 2
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March/April 2022 - 5
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