Rapeseed – a promising alternative source of protein

  • 16.11.2020
  • 1:43

We all need protein in our diet. But with the changing climate and growing number of people, we need to look for other sources of protein, alternative to livestock. This has led us to rapeseed. With its growing popularity and NapiFeryn’s new technology, it can become a great alternative to soybean and a new best source of plant-based protein for tomorrow.

Protein is one of the key components in the human diet. Effects of a diet scarce in protein can be devastating, from growth failure to muscle weakness and heart problems. Simultaneously, protein is also one of the most challenging macronutrients when it comes to sustainable production. Livestock industry, currently the main protein source, contributes to global warming, land degradation and air and water pollution. It also requires vast spaces, which the Earth simply cannot accommodate if we want to sustainably feed growing numbers of people.

We need an alternative solution

This sentiment has sparked interest in the search for alternative protein sources around the world. Many scientific teams are researching ways to obtain protein from different types of plants, insects, fungi or cultured meat. With plants, especially those already grown and widely cultivated around the world, being our best hope.

Currently, soy dominates the plant-based protein market. And even though it is a great alternative to meat, it is not ideal. One of the reasons why soy production raises some concerns is that it is mainly cultivated in Brazil and the USA. So firstly, it must be imported into our region, leaving an environmental footprint. Secondly, with the growing international demand, it might negatively impact local habitats, especially in the Amazon region – leading to land degradation through monoculture cropping and loss of biodiversity.

From bitter past to bright new future

That is why, here at NapiFeryn BioTech, we decided to focus on rapeseed, also known as canola. Rapeseed oilseed production is the third in the world, following soybean and palm and has increased 89% in the last decade in response to growing market demand for vegetable oils. European Union is currently the largest rapeseed producer.
The byproduct of the rapeseed oil pressing industry is called press cake or rapeseed cake. It is known for its high protein content but has only been used as animal feed. Why? It simply did not taste good. Also, there was no technology capable of extracting protein from its oilseeds with sufficient quality and yield to make the process economically viable.
We were able to solve both those issues. We can now obtain protein and protein-fibre powders from rapeseed which actually taste good and have great functional properties. Our technology purifies protein from so-called anti-nutritional factors (the phenolic components), which render its bitter taste. While the mild conditions under which protein is isolated ensure it is not denatured, or in other words, remains undamaged.

Focus on rapeseed

Our technology and the potential of, until recently, undervalued rapeseed has caught an eye of other researchers, industry thought leaders and innovators resulting in further studies.
We are one of the partners in EITFood VALOCAKE project, which focuses on valorization of rapeseed press cake as multi-functional food ingredients and tasty food. It aims to adopt clean processes such as fermentation, to upgrade the rapeseed press cake-derived protein and protein-fibre powders into functional food ingredients and tasty food products in bakery, patisserie and meat substitutes categories.
Focus on rapeseed means it might soon become a popular food-additive, alternative to omnipresent soy and a change for good in our food system.

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