BIOECONOMY can have a positive environmental, social and economical impact, especially at local level introducing innovation and growth to traditional economical sectors. An Italian Case Study: The valorization of the main side-product of cheese factory: the cheese whey, in Apulia.

In the context of the BIOWAYS project, Susanna Albertini Interviewed Erika Andriola, co-founder of an innovative bio-based startup, using an innovative biotechnological approach to convert the main side-product of cheese factory, the cheese whey, into probiotic biomass, yeast and to recover whey protein.

“Whey is an environmental pollutant and it should be correctly collected and treated; because of the high costs of treatment and the high volume produced it is often dispersed into the environment.” says Erika Andriola “BioInnoTech mission is to involve and integrate productive activities of the territory (cheese factories, oil mills, wineries, etc.) exploiting the potential of the main agroindustry-waste”.

Cheese production is one of the main agro-food sector in Apulia and large volumes of side product are generated from this process. Through a biotechnological approach consisting in a pre-treatment and a fermentation process, BioInnoTech is able to convert whey in high value products solving the problem of whey disposal. Whey is not only a waste but it is a raw material for our production process. Moreover, yeast producers are absent in the south of Italy resulting in high logistic costs for the distributors; we can offer on site products reducing costs.

      • Technology and Innovation

BioInnoTech technology is an alternative to the classic whey disposal. The cheese-whey is treated to recover protein fraction and sugars. This pretreated whey is employed in an innovative fermentation process.

Fermentation allows the production of a wild range of high value products (biochemicals, biopolymer etc.) and the aim of BioInnoTech project is to start from the production of probiotic biomass to compensate for the absence of producers in the south of Italy, reducing the logistic costs for the distributors, and to expand the range of the products in the future.

      • Team

We are four Industrial Biotechnologists (master degree at University of Bari “Aldo Moro”, Bioscience, Biotechnologies and Biopharmaceutical Department) Rosita Pavone (CEO), Antonella Carbone, Erika Andriola and Maria Pisano (maters degree in Industrial and Environmental Biotechnology) that decided to connect their scientific knowledge with the love for their land; this is why we like to say that BioInnoTech is not only technological innovation but it is our lifestyle! We have skills in microbiology and fermentation. We worked at Chalmers University of Goteborg, Sweden, improving our knowledge about industrial biotechnology, biorefinery and biofuel production from renewable biomass. Antonella Carbone have also a formation in agrifood managment. All the founder are now full time involved in the optimization of the technology and in the creation of a cheese factory network and potential customers.

      • Business model

BioInnoTech received a grant from the Chamber of Commerce of Bari; we are investing these money in our first year of R&D for the optimization and scale-up of our process that is already defined on laboratory scale (standardization of the starting material, pre-treatment conditions and fermentation parameters) stipulating an agreement with the University of Bari, to rent spaces and instruments. We are already creating a network of cheese factory and potential costumers interested in our products. During this year a procedure for intellectual property protection will be started. At the end of the first year we want to build our own pre-treatment plant, scale-up the process to a pilot scale and start a market test of the products through a collaboration with costumers. BioInnoTech will have a double direct relationship with cheese factories, offering a cheaper service than waste water treatment center, and with the distributors already present in the territory.

      • What makes our solution unique and competitive

Until now cheese whey has always been seen as waste with high costs of treatment. For BioInnoTech it is a rich starting material for innovative biotechnological process. Because of the possibility to produce high value products we can offer a cheaper service to cheese factories; moreover factories can be proud to take part to a green process to close the economic cycle in a sustainable way! On the other hand through an innovative fermentation process we are able to produce probiotic biomass and yeast. The biggest producers in Italy are located only in the north of Italy with high logistic costs for the distribution of the products in the south of Italy.

More infos at


The BIOWAYS project, started on October 2016, is funded by the Bio-Based Industries Joint Undertaking. Its aim is to raise public awareness of bio-based products and to promote their applications and benefits to society at large and highlight the role of the bio-based industries, using a variety of communication techniques and educational tools and materials.