Sustainable bioeconomy – turning waste into food

  • 31.12.2020
  • 1:43

Almost 10% of the EU’s total greenhouse gas emissions comes from agriculture.

To cut it down, we need to transition towards a more sustainable bioeconomy and limit our consumption of meat. But how do we do that? How do we apply the ideas of circular economy into food production processes and food chains? And how do we assure that people maintain the right amount of protein in their diet, without relying too much on a livestock industry?

In a traditional linear economy, we take the natural resources, make what we need out of them and once it has been used or it breaks down – we throw it away. In a circular approach, the idea is to reuse, refurbish, repair, and recycle materials to create a closed loop and eliminate waste.

But how do we apply this principal to agriculture? The key is the efficient utilisation of side streams generated in food production and food chains. This is where a technology like the one created by NapiFeryn comes in – allowing rapeseed oil producers to eliminate their waste by upcycling it and turning it into tasty food ingredient.

From by-products into vast protein resources

Rapeseed is grown on an area of over 3 million hectares in Europe, which is over 60% of the total area occupied by oilseeds. It is currently the main oleaginous plant of Europe and the production is on a rise. Once rapeseed is pressed for oil, what is left is so called press cake. We have known for quite some time that it has beneficial nutritional properties, but now this oil pressing side stream can be turned into protein.  Up until now considered too bitter for human consumption.

The process developed by NapiFeryn purifies protein from so-called anti-nutritional factors (the phenolic components), which rendered its bitter taste, while the mild conditions under which protein is isolated ensure it is not denatured, or in other words, remains undamaged. It is also economically viable, which is obviously an important factor to be considered. If only 5 per cent of the global rapeseed production was processed to protein products with our technology, it would translate into more than 300 thousand metric tonnes of protein product.

Upcycled protein for human nutrition

In 2020 we took part in the EIT Food’s “Valocake” project, looking at the valorization of rapeseed press cake as multifunctional food ingredient. It showed that rapeseed press cake has the potential to be a sustainable source of valuable proteins, dietary fibre, and bioactive compounds for human nutrition.

Rapeseed protein has a beneficial composition of amino acids and chemical compounds which could have beneficial effects on our health. Protein content in rapeseed is approximately 20 percent. NapiFeryn’s technology makes it possible to retrieve that nutrient almost entirely in a form of functional protein products.

Those protein products – protein isolate (RapteinTM 90) and concentrate (RapteinTM30) – obtained from rapeseed press cake, have great functional properties for food formulation and can be used as additives in pastas, sweets, souses, vegan meat alternatives, beverages, or bread.

If only 1 per cent of our nutritional needs for protein is satisfied with rapeseed products, NapiFeryn Biotech’s technology could prove beneficial to as many as 1.5 billion people.

Win-win situation

There are many initiatives that look at the potential, sometimes surprising, applications of agricultural by-products, which can prove to be full of nutritional goodness. Ability to obtain protein from the rapeseed press cake, an oil pressing side stream, is a win-win situation.

Not only does it provide us with an additional, alternative source of protein for human nutrition. It also allows oil producers to obtain higher value from their waste streams, while contributing to circular economy and creating a more sustainable bioeconomy.

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