Prof. Agbaje Lateef, a Nanotechnology expert, says Nigeria generates a lot of waste from agricultural products that can be converted to valuable materials to boost the economy.
Lateef, Head of the Nanotechnology Research group (NANO+) domiciled in Ladoke Akintola University of Technology, Oyo State, said this in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Tuesday in Abuja.
While evaluating wastes from groundnut in Nigeria, he recalled statistics that stated the country was the highest groundnut producer in Africa and 10th largest globally.
The expert explained that most times, groundnut was being produced and used for oil or consumption and the shells and pods must have to be removed.
“Most often we eat the groundnut or sell to industries that use it to produce groundnut oil, in either of the two you have to remove the shell which covers the nut.
“These form a huge waste and you hardly find any valuable thing it is used for.
“In the concept of bio-economy, we want to see how we can use biological materials to contribute to the economy and we use the wastes generated in one way or the other.
“People have used the groundnut shell to produce bio-fuel, bio-diesel which is a renewable form of energy,’’ he said.
He explained that in places where the country had short supply of energy, large groundnut wastes and other agro wastes could serve as bio-fuel or diesel for the supply of energy, hence taking some communities off the national grid.
The expert added that groundnut wastes could also be used to produce enzymes which were biological catalyst that drive a lot of bio-chemical reactions.
According to him, industrial materials can be produced from the wastes and ensure the reduction in pollution, emissions emanating from production processes.
“Eight different kind of enzymes have been produced using groundnut shell, it has been used to produce different kind of nanomaterials, antibiotics, single cell protein, animal feed.
“It has been used to produce organic acids, it can be converted to fertilizer and we also have it as adsorbents.
“When we look at this, it can serve as a viable industry itself using groundnut shell to drive so many materials,’’ Lateef said.
He recalled that countries like Malaysia built their economy around oil palm and they were doing well.
He further mentioned that Citric Acid was another material the country could produce in large quantity and reduce its capital flight.
Lateef said the country could deploy the bio-technology of black mold or fungus that largely grow on vast agro waste without supplementing it.
Lateef explained that Citric Acid majorly used in pharmaceutical industry and according to reports was being imported to the country with $30 million annually.
“If we can produce citric acid and reduce our import by 10 per cent, we can even save a lot of money,’’ he said.
He said that some of the group’s research works focused on microbial valorisation, whereby they used micro-organisms to convert waste materials to high end materials.
According to him, valorisation of agricultural waste as a country has economic value.
Lateef added that disposal of some of the agro wastes constitute pollution to the environment, whereas they could serve as substitutes, while some contain nutrients that could be utilised by some micro-organisms.