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Integrated cascades of PROcesses for the extraction and valorisation of proteins and bioactive molecules from Legumes, Fungi and Coffee agro-industrial side streams

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - Prolific (Integrated cascades of PROcesses for the extraction and valorisation of proteins and bioactive molecules from Legumes, Fungi and Coffee agro-industrial side streams)

Reporting period: 2020-03-01 to 2021-08-31

Globally, 1.3 billion tons per year of biomass end up as co-products, residues and waste along the food chain (from field to fork). Agro-industrial residual biomass, side streams and food production by-products such as legumes, fungi and coffee may represent rich sources of valuable ingredients. Yet their potential is to be fully proven. Innovative and sustainable biorefinery processes are an option to valorise part of these streams. Especially when starting from protein-rich side products, the recovered fractions could significantly contribute to serve the global demand for food proteins.
The PROLIFIC project aims at recovering significant amounts of proteins, polyphenols, fibers and other value added compounds from agro-industrial residues of legumes, fungi and coffee. For that an integrated array of extraction processes starting from wasted seeds of peas, green beans and chickpeas, leftovers of different fungi species, coffee silver skin and non-compliant coffee green beans are being optimized, validated and scaled up.
Within this frame the consortium pursues the following specific objectives:
• Mapping the availability and sustainability of the chosen feedstocks (legumes, fungi and coffee residues) during and after the project;
• Defining the specifications and compliance of residue-derived compounds with existing regulations;
• Establishing cascaded, flexible and fully-scalable biorefinery extraction protocols for isolating proteins and other bioactive compounds from agro-industrial plant residues;
• Converting extracted fractions into valuable ingredients tailored to the specific final applications of industrial end-users;
• Selecting, validating and demonstrating the use of extracted/converted fractions as ingredients or additives in the food, cosmetic, packaging and feed products;
• Successfully disseminating the project results and preparing them for an efficient exploitation
The overall project approach is illustrated in Fig. 1
During the first 36 months, PROLIFIC delivered a comprehensive inventory and preliminary assessment report on availability, geographical origin, seasonality, quality, safety and sustainability of the selected legume, fungi and coffee feedstocks.
The initial feedstocks were fully characterised for their molecular and safety characteristics. They largely complied with sectoral legislation. No major barriers for their further use was identified.
Most importantly, for each type of feedstock specific cascades of extraction processes were developed and optimised leading to the recovery of proteins and other non-protein compounds.
At first, different protein extraction methods based on aqueous, enzymatic assisted extraction and ultrasound-assisted processes were set up and for each type of residue, the most efficient procedure was selected in terms of protein content and quality. All the protein fractions have been characterized and their nutritional value and functional properties have been assessed.
Following cascading steps were developed to isolate polyphenols, carotenoids, phytosterols, fibres, chitosan and caffeine from protein extraction residues as well as from initial feedstocks. Safety, bioactivity and technical characteristics of ecah fractions were evaluted and fractions were ranked according to their application in the different product prototypes of food, cosmetics, packaging and feed sectors.
Proteins recovered from legumes were subjected to enzymatic hydrolysis in order to produce peptide mixtures to be used as ingredient or biobased materials. Moreover, peptide mixtures were modified to produce emulsifiers for cosmetic applications. Trials of coating with fungi-extracted chitosan for the production of packaging material with antimicrobial property were performed.
Different high-protein bread prototypes including legume proteins, breakfast products and meat-surrogate vegan products including legume proteins, coffee capsules composites including coffee silverskin, cosmetic formulations including coffe polyphenols and peptides, and feed preliminary formulations including coffee and legume phenols and fibres, have already been obtained and are presently being validated.
Extensive assessments and data collection have been made to asses from a life cycle perspective the environmental impacts and cost implications associated with the new PROLIFIC porcesses and bio-based extracts and products.
On dissemination and communication, the project has developed an appealing outer appearance and presented the project approach and initial product protoypes on various events, such as Ecomondo, the BBI Stakeholder Forum Projects Day, Scuence ids Wonderful, Researchers' Night, various sectoral fairs and even the Italian national television. A specific highlight was a workshop dedicated to one of the target sectors. Under the theme “Residual Biomasses for Eco-compatible and Sustainable Food Packaging” experts from industry and research discussed the perspective of bio-based polymers and functional packaging, also in view of latest EU legislation.
The Consortium published to date seven scientific papers in a peer-reviewed journals among which two are reviews.
The PROLIFIC project has already demonstrated beyond the state-of-the-art the possibility of protein and other active molecules extraction from legume and coffee residues and to a minor extent from fungi biomass. Initial fungi and coffee silver skin residues can be directly used in food and packaging formulations.
The overall impact of the project is to take on specific challenges posed by the valorisation of these untapped biomass streams. Specifically, these include:
• Addressing the present European food policy for the provision of safe, nutritious, high quality and affordable food to European consumers by valorising the increasing amounts of side streams from products based on legumes, fungi and coffee;
• Become the leading solutions provider for ingredients/additive alternatives or complementary to those currently available
• Contributing to meet the increasing demand for bio-based, active, and biodegradable molecules and polymers to be used for polymer formulations and applications;
• Introducing and validating bio-polymers and green additives in packaging applications
• Growing the bio-plastics sector and thus mitigating climate change;
• Contributing to produce new generation functional feed products also aiming at reducing the dependency from antibiotics
• Contributing to produce innovative cosmetic products using more sustainable bio-based ingredients.
PROLIFIC Project concept