Sustainable practice: Population growth and the value of plant proteins

  • 16.03.2022
  • 9:01

Since 2019, NapiFeryn Biotech has been involved with the Horizon 2020 (H2020) SME Instrument. The funding and support received from H2020 has been a tremendous help in driving our ALSEOS project to turn the byproduct of rapeseed oil production into valuable food protein.

Not only does the H2020 SME Instrument make innovation possible, it also encourages the European small & medium enterprise sector to strive towards a more sustainable future, where continuous growth is possible.

Moving forward, as it’s predicted that the global population will rise to 9bn by 2050, proteins derived from plants are a key focus for the food industry to ensure sustainability of food sources stay intact. NapiFeryn BioTech’s protein product, Raptein™, supports just this. This is a first of a kind biorefinery plant to demonstrate the new technology in Poland.

Future protein supply and demand

In addition to increased protein demand arising from population growth, increased demand for protein globally is driven by socio-economic changes such as rising incomes, increased urbanisation, and ageing populations whereby the contribution of protein to healthy ageing is increasingly recognised. In the context of protein, the negative impacts are mostly associated with animal-derived protein, with heavy amounts of greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) being released by livestock production. Land use is also a concern, for example, in the EU two thirds of total agricultural area is used for livestock production.

The practice of making sustainable plant-based foods more common, when it comes to diet incorporation, is reaching new innovative fronts. Protein is an essential part of a balanced diet, however, the average person consumes much more than the recommended amount each week. Environmental scientists are recommending a shift to diets with larger proportions of plant-based proteins, however, this means that the farming and production industry must also adapt to accommodate new diet trends.

Food production and environmental sustainability have long been at odds with each other. On estimate, by 2050 food production will have risen by 70%. It’s critical to not only produce a higher quantity of food, but also more nutritional foods to supplement healthy diets. 

In order to combat protein/energy malfunction, something that is already experienced by more than a billion people, more and more health practitioners are referring to plant proteins as a source of sustainable energy. In particular, rapeseed contains valuable sources of healthy fats and vitamins that are necessary for cellular, organ and muscle function and for the maintenance of a healthy, lean body mass.

Next to a healthy society, we must acknowledge the fact that we live on a planet with finite resources and a growing population. So while sustainable plant proteins support the fight against malnutrition, plant-based products also lessen the ecological impact of animal agriculture. From water waste to soil degradation, plant-based foods can cut back on many damages brought about by industrial-scale farming. 

Instead of using grains for animal feed, the grains can go directly towards supporting human diets. This limits the amount of resources used to raise farm animals for sources of protein. 

Not only do plant-proteins support environmental health, it also aids human health in terms of lessening the risk of heart disease – associated with diets that are high in animal proteins.

Best practice: Sustainable farming

It’s safe to say that the food industry has, in some cases, become notorious for genetically modifying or technologically enhancing the nutritional values of food sources. The latest innovations have set the opposite in motion, as part of chasing sustainability goals – farming and production practices are following the all natural route again. The less a plant, or animal, is treated to be “genetically perfect”, the better it is to support human health.

On a global scale, the transition to non-meat protein sources is still going to take years. Yet, while we’re in a transitioning period, it’s important to acknowledge that sourcing local plant-based foods is one of the stepping stones towards a sustainable future. 

While new processing methods are in rapid development to boost the safety, nutritional and sensory potential of rapeseed protein, NapiFeryn Biotech is committed to developing a sustainable future for all. Backed with funding by H2020, the ALSEOS project is taking into consideration how plant proteins can be utilized to combat malnutrition, food scarcity and aid healthy diets, as well as limit food waste by optimizing the benefits we can gain from a single rapeseed plant. 

While each protein-rich plant is unique to its place of origin, they all share many common characteristics including:

  • Increase domestic protein production;
  • Enhance feed and food sovereignty;
  • Advance legislative and regulatory reform;
  • Leverage funding support;
  • Accelerate the bioeconomy.

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