Complete pineapple waste solutions including decortication for textile production

Background Information

In partnership with The Chequered Flag and Ananas Anam Ltd, Kenya-based start-up Mananasi Fibre Ltd are piloting innovative decortication technology to convert pineapple biomass waste into textile-grade fibres and nutrient-rich compost.

Pineapple plantations in Kenya make use of a 3.5 year rotation period at the end of which, after the final harvest, the plants are knocked to the ground, dried and burnt to make way for the next season’s pineapple crops. This is the current practice used by Del Monte Kenya Ltd, headquartered in Thika, Kenya, a leading producer of pineapple and pineapple products with a 40 square kilometre pineapple plantation on the outskirts of Nairobi. This process presents numerous environmental and human health impacts as well as sub-optimal crop rotation efficiencies.

The waste material that results from this process at Del Monte amounts to approximately 40,000 tonnes of dried plant material per year which, when burnt, emits approximately 52,000 tonnes of CO2 along with other particulate and noxious air pollutants. Aside from the contribution to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, these air pollutants pose serious health risks to the neighbouring communities, particularly the densely populated areas near Nairobi. Further, the burning of the biomass waste is detrimental to the next season’s crop as the heat bakes the soil thereby depleting it of vital nutrients and soil microbiota which, altogether, reduces the soil health. To restore soil nutrient levels, Del Monte applies a chemical fertiliser which can lead to further environmental impacts, increased carbon footprint of pineapple production, and increased production costs. Finally, the drying process, which is wholly reliant on sun exposure, is heavily dependent on weather conditions and can take up to six months. This heavily delays planting and reduces the productivity of the plantation.

Embracing circular economy principles, the pilot project aims to address all these problems by intercepting an initial 10% of Del Monte’s available biomass waste – approximately 2,900 tonnes of fresh waste per month – to produce textile-grade fibres and compost which can be sold and used for pineapple production processes.

Using a number of new technologies, as well as existing technologies for novel processes, the project aims to produce 400kg of textile-grade pineapple fibre per day. The reject material from the decortication process, including the pineapple plant stem, decorticator waste and short leaves, also present an opportunity as this waste can be utilised for further fibre extraction, compost, animal feed, and biochar. Through a joint venture with the UK government’s Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA), the project is trialing the production of biochar from the reject material. This will be used for various purposes, including the filtration of decorticator wastewater to enable its re-use and the incorporation of biochar into compost to enhance its nutritional yield. The project team aims to produce approximately 4.8 tonnes of biochar per day. Trials for both the wastewater filtration, to enable the re-use of water used for rinsing the decorticators, and compost-biochar mixture for pineapple production are currently underway. Successfully repurposing this waste is crucial to the project’s ambition of providing a complete waste management solution for pineapple producers. Decortication of pineapple fibre is a relatively new technology in Kenya and success in this pilot will serve as a base to test other organic waste streams where it may be applicable.

Through this pilot, the project aims to offer a long-term and sustainable solution to address the challenges associated with pineapple farming, thereby lowering production costs, reducing environmental and human health impacts, and increasing economic circularity.

Photo credit: Chequered Flag

Updates

The project has made significant progress in its business development, technology development and operations despite numerous challenges.

Business Development:

  • The project is exploring new partnerships to take on the fibres produced by the project, including NextEvo Naturals (Vietnam) and Consulting Services International (Bangladesh). In June 2024, the project successfully sent its first shipment of fibre to Vietnam.
  • The project has learnt that pineapple fibres are currently not catered for in Bangladesh’s regulations, raising challenges with accessing the Bangladesh market. This presents an opportunity for the to contribute to the development of favourable import/export regulations to bolster the industry.
  • Several companies, including TexFad, Ananas Anam and Compagnie Frutiere have expressed significant interest in the decorticator technology once it has been commercialised.

Technology developments:

  • The project now has 4 decortication machines in place, primarily designed to process pineapple leaves. A new decorticator is trialed to process pineapple stems.
  • An auto-brushing machine has been designed and is yet to be tested with the expectation that it will greatly improve production rates, safety and quality control of the decortication process.
  • The design of the mobile harvester has been slightly delayed as these designs are dependent on the outcomes of the ongoing biochar trials.

Operations:

  • By the end of March 2024, the project had successfully produced 5.15 tonnes of fibre and 50 tonnes of compost. This is below the expected quantities due to the challenge of securing an offtaker for the fibre and the risks/costs associated with producing fibre only for it to be put into storage. However, the team is well set to increase capacity to 560kg of fibre per day once all three decorticators come into operation in May/June 2024.
  • The reject material from the decortication process is also being trialed for a number of uses. This includes using the stems in a stem decortication process to produce fibres and pulp. The pulp is being trialed as an animal feed as well as for biochar production.
  • The project has successfully trialed wastewater treatment by filtering the wastewater from cleaning the decorticator through biochar to remove any biomass from the water. This has enabled the team to re-use the filtered water in the cleaning process.
  • Stem decortication trials have shown promising results. The fibres produced from the stem have application potential similar to coconut coir. Initial conversations with Coco360 (The FRESHPPACT Project, funded by SMEP) have been undertaken to investigate the use of these fibres in the production of mulch.

Biochar trials

  • The wastewater trial has proven to be successful and the filter bed has been widen to ensure that it has capacity to treat the wastewater outputs of four decorticators.
  • Biochar trials are still ongoing with the compost application trials currently underway (initiated in January 2024) on a portion of the Del Monte plantation.
  • Several knowledge products, including an integrated business model, a life cycle assessment, a carbon credit road map and a soil nutrient enhancement analysis, will be produced through this joint venture and these are strongly dependent on the outcomes of the fibre/compost operations as well.
  • Key to this pilot is to produce biochar that meets the requirements for carbon credit standards.

GESI

  • Mananasi has employed 45 staff members for undertaking the operations of this project, 22 of whom are women. Mananasi actively recruits women in all levels and positions in the company , both skilled and unskilled, and certainly doesn’t hold on to the perception that certain jobs are unsuitable for women.
  • Staff have been given extensive health and safety training
  • There are no dining facilities in the proximity of the factory and the harvesting team is provided with food while in the field. A canteen has been constructed and will officially open in mid-2024 to provide workers with a subsidised lunch and tea.
  • A group of women have been trained, through a collaboration with TexFad (Uganda), to weave baskets using pineapple leaves thereby enabling them to pursue an alternative livelihood source.

GHG Emissions Reduction

  • Between 2023 and 2024, the project reached 46 tCO2e reduction and is on track to achieve a reduction of 335-339 tCO2e between 2024 and 2025.

Connect with Complete pineapple waste solutions including decortication for textile production

Websites

Timeframe

May 2023 – December 2025

Status

Active

Countries of Implementation

Consortium Partners

Showcase Resources

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