A PROJECT to extract microcrystalline cellulose from pineapple leaves could provide up to 1200 jobs for those living in Bathurst.
Anthony Albers from Ndlambe Natural Industrial Product Pty Ltd (NNIP) presented a progress report to Bathurst residents last Saturday.
He said microcrystalline cellulose can be compressed into the hard end product that is used to bulk up tablets like Panado. It is difficult to break, but when broken, dissolves easily. Pineapple fibre is actually richer in the core ingredient than cotton which makes it a good product.
The NNIP will be building a factory in Bathurst to handle the harvesting of the fibre. The pharmaceutical process will take place in the factory already set up in East London due to environmental concerns. No chemicals will be used in the process taking place in Bathurst.
In the beginning of the project there will only be a requirement for low skill jobs, but later on highly skilled technical positions will need to be filled. There will also be several opportunities in the mechanical and transport areas.
Richard Rademan is leasing farm land and a shed to the NNIP for the pilot project which has already started. The next two years will be spent putting the product through trials.
“This could be a model for agricultural industries across the realm which are under pressure and will have to add valued to what was considered waste,” Albers said.
They aim to create renewable energy from the waste by turning methane gas into electricity. This has been tested already and will provide four to six megavoltage-ampere (MVA). Port Alfred uses about 7 MVA. They should also be able to put water back into the system once they get going.
The Eastern Cape Development Corporation has been of great help over the years, financing the conversion of the pineapple canning factory to produce juice, the dietary fibre project and the first phase of the current pilot project.