Rice straw-derived food containers: CMU’s ready-to-use innovation that promotes sustainable agriculture

15 January 2021

Corporate Communication and Alumni Relations Center (CCARC)

Rice straw is a by-product of rice farming. Each year, 20 million tonnes of straw are produced and not only are they used for feeding animals or covering the surface soil, but they can also can be used to produce ecofriendly products with added value. The Faculty of Agro-industry, Chiang Mai University, has innovated a chemical-free and food-safe container made from rice straw, which is 100% biodegradable and ecofriendly. This helps enhance the modern entrepreneurial skills, professional stability and capacity in the business and industrial sectors among the crop producers, preparing them for the international market.


The research team from the Faculty of Agro-Industry led by Asst.Prof.Dr. Suthaphat Khamthai got the inspiration during their consultation visit with rice farmers who did not know how to make use of the rice straws. Initially, the collected straw from Mae Tha district, Lampang were processed into paper. Then, in collaboration with SMEs, the need for microwavable, waterproof, food grade containers was identified. To make a container that is completely safe, only straw from organic, chemical-free rice is selected and then prepared to undergo the green process, which does not cause adverse social or environmental impacts - of defibering, the use of microbes and special rice flour-derived glue and the development of safe coating materials. Quality fibres are then formed into the containers that hold their shape for about two hours. More importantly, these plastic-free containers are highly biodegradable, as they are made of 100% rice straws, contributing to the reduction of burning that results in haze problems in the region. In terms of product design, the assistance from Science and Technology Park has contributed to the captivating looks and enhanced marketing opportunities.

In line with the mission in research for academic services, CMU aims to help the communities grow and become stronger so that they can generate income and set a good example for others. In the future, other agricultural leftovers such as corn husks, pineapple leaves and hemp hurds can be made into containers as well. The pilot model in Mae Chaem district which has numerous rice farms will be able to accommodate industrial-scale production. The transfer of knowledge and technology from researchers to the local communities will drive the local economic development that yields both commercial benefits and the sustainable improvement in the quality of life.

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