About the project

LIFE for Acid Whey


The dairy industry, with the constant growth of cow's milk production, is one of the primary sources of industrial discharges. When processing milk into cheese and cottage cheese, the yield is around 10%, while the remaining 90% is whey. Also, only a certain portion, in particular sweet whey from cheese production, is further processed, since it’s commercially more attractive and easier to process. Acid whey, which remains after the manufacture of curd, is often considered as waste.

With the increasing production of milk and traditional dairy products, competition in the dairy market is also increasing. Therefore, to enhance the competitiveness of dairies, continuous investments in modernization of production are necessary, with the aim of offering new products and optimising costs in the area of wastewater treatment and energy consumption.

Whey offers great potential in this field as it represents a significant source of highly searched proteins in the market of dietary supplements, a substrate for the cultivation of dairy starter cultures, a potential source of renewable energy, etc.

In addition to total dry whey proteins used as food supplements increasing protein nutrition value, the importance of individual whey proteins has recently been highlighted. These include β-lactoglobulin, α-lactalbumin, immunoglobulins, bovine serum albumin, glycomacropeptide, lactoperoxidase, and lactoferrin. The importance of the latter is much greater, due to their regulatory and physiological activity in the body.


In the light of the current EU goals for establishing a circular economy and clean technologies, we will demonstrate in the project LIFE for Acid Whey several innovative approaches for further whey processing. The primary focus will be on optimising and demonstrating the separation process of individual whey proteins (e.g., lactoferrin, lactoperoxidase, immunoglobulin) using monolithic chromatography. In pilot experiments and cooperation with external partners, we will test other possibilities of beneficial use of acid whey, such as the production of dairy starter cultures, the production of vitamins, the separation of residual lactose, lactate and whey proteins, and the production of energy.

Expected results

After the end of the four-year LIFE for Acid Whey project, we expect the following results:

  • Optimized technological process for the separation of whey proteins, competitive regarding production costs (high recycling rate of process materials) and quality (more than 90% purity of isolated proteins) product compared to existing technology, which will enable dairies to exploit a growing demand for specific whey proteins.
  • Established demonstration system with the goal of daily processing of 24 cubic meters of whey.
  • Implemented pilot tests for further processing of processed whey with the aim of efficient use of all remaining ingredients and reduction of environmental footprint.
  • Demonstrated capacity of 95% reduction of whey COD load in the process of anaerobic treatment.
  • Evaluated the best possible ways of reduction of the environmental burden of acid whey by defining sustainable concepts for different production environments.
  • Defined new technological solutions for the beneficial use of whey, which can bring new income to small and large dairies.


The LIFE for Acid Whey project will include the following activities:

1. Preparatory activities

  • Overview of the current state of the art and technology development and optimisation of the work plan
  • Establishing a pilot system
  • Setting analytics

2. Activities on a test pilot system for the separation of individual whey proteins
3. Design and construction of a demonstration plant
4. Logistics of whey management
5. Operation and monitoring of the demonstration plant

  • Test run and optimisation
  • Establishing process analytics
  • Demonstration of lactoferrin separation
  • Demonstration of the separation of other whey proteins
  • Establishment of a separated protein drying system

6. Whey management after protein separation

  • Establishment of a master plan for process fluids
  • Setting up a whey master plan after completed protein separation
  • Perform pilot tests for further use of whey after separation of proteins

7. Pre-commercialization activities

  • Distribution of separated proteins to interested customers
  • Technological assessment of the operation of the production plant with the business plan
  • Market replicability analysis
  • Market transferability analysis

8. Monitoring and measurement of project performance indicators and life cycle analysis

  • A review of project performance indicators
  • Life cycle analysis
  • Analysis of socio - economic impacts of the project

9. Dissemination of the project

  • Initial information and awareness raising activities
  • Presentation of project results to stakeholders
  • Networking with related LIFE and EU projects


The co-financiers of the four-year project LIFE 16 ENV/SI/000335 LIFE for Acid Whey are:
  • European Commission: 2,622,435 € (59.08%)
  • Arhel d.o.o.: 1,664,004 € (37.49%)
  • University of Ljubljana, Biotechnical Faculty, Institute of dairy science & probiotics: 152,562 € (3.44%)


project kick-off presentation

official project abstract

press release