Rice production is one of the most important activities for societies worldwide. Therefore, its sustainability is essential for food and job preservation in many regions. Within this perspective, ensuring and increasing the profitability of this sector is crucial for many aspects of the community. One of the challenges of the rice sector is to be economically more profitable; rice is a commodity product with low prices in the market and, for the communities, it is strategic to sustain those low prices. Rice is a basic food for many societies and a great source of energy for humanity.
Prevailing profitability efforts
Therefore, to increase its profitability, the rice industry has focused mainly on optimizing the mechanical efficiency of the process, seeking to minimize the content of broken grain; This process is always linked to achieving economic improvements in the operation. However, many experts indicate that milling technologies are reaching their peak; This makes it increasingly difficult to improve operational profitability by modifying or optimizing conventional transformation processes.
Consequently, this leads to exploring new alternatives for generating value for the industry, which, in addition to seeking to optimize conventional processes, gives value to all by-products generated from the process chain.
It is paradoxical to observe how in most rice mills, tons of by-products of the main processes, such as rice bran, broken rice, and rejected-rice from color classification stages, are stored with no control. This, subject to being sold as low-cost raw material to other industries. Uncontrolled storage demands complex storage and pest control procedures that represent a risk for the stability of such by-products; in certain cases, cross-contamination can damage main-products. For this reason, new transformation processes are now being developed, allowing millers to obtain added values from their by-products. We invite you to learn about some of these practices below.
The micronization system is one of the methods that can be applied to broken and rejected grains produced from separation and color selection processes; these, delivering subproducts for different applications. It is known that broken and rejected grains contain a large amount of starch; however, their culinary quality is not the most adequate, preventing their application in conventional preparations. Micronization is the process of reducing the size of a product to tiny, very fine particles called microns. With this process, aggressive grain size reduction is carried out in one step; this makes it possible to obtain rice flours with tiny particles (between 70 and 300 microns), very rich in starch. In addition to grain size reduction, micronization increases the surface area of the product, allowing a high level of solubility; this increases the characteristics necessary for the preparation of higher added-value products such as baby food, drinks, tortillas, and modified starches, among others. These by-products can open up new market opportunities that increase milling-process competitiveness and profitability.
Reconstruction of rice
On the other hand and as another alternative for the expansion of other by-products, we have the rice reconstruction technique for flavoring, coloring, and fortification purposes. Once flour delivered from broken and rejected grains are produced, flour premixes with vitamins, minerals, and flavors can be prepared. Then, through the implementation of extrusion processes, the production of new rice grains or other products such as noodles and pasta can be obtained; these products can open up new markets such as wheat substitutes, hypoallergenic products, cereals for children, rice with high nutritional value, and new taste experiences that allow covering institutional and specialized industries.
Because of the significant content of gamma-oryzanol in rice-flour and/or bran, there is a great potential to obtain oils with high nutritional value. By extracting oils/fat from bran, besides obtaining a new product that represents a new source of income, the useful-life of bran is improved and makes it less susceptible to oxidative rancidity. This can also simplify product storage operations and improve supplying conditions to other industries, such as balanced-food plants.
As active participants in the development of the milling industry, it is very important to emphasize the importance of looking for process alternatives for by-products that positively impact the profitability of the operation, ensuring the nutritional supply of this cereal, but increasing the financial quality and well-being of organizations in the sector.
Andrés Aldana Rico
Agroindustrial Engineer M. Sc