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Unlocking the potential of EU cultivated quinoa through the production of protein-rich quinoa flour and functional quinoa starch

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - QUINNOVA (Unlocking the potential of EU cultivated quinoa through the production of protein-rich quinoa flour and functional quinoa starch)

Periodo di rendicontazione: 2019-05-01 al 2019-09-30

Currently, in the EU, around 60% of the consumed protein is animal-based, which production and consumption leads to (i) scarcity of land available for other uses, such as crop production; (ii) health risks, such as type 2 diabetes or colon cancer, diseases associated to red and processed meats consumption; (iii) increasing negative environmental impact and GHG emissions; and (iv) growing EU dependence of protein imports from outside the EU, especially from South America, where it is leading to deforestation and land pressure.
Quinoa, an herbaceous plant that has been traditionally grown in South America for over 5,000 years, has recently raised a global interest and has been recognised by the FAO as a valuable crop for enhancing food security due to the high nutritional density of the seeds. Protein content in quinoa is higher compared to common cereals (rice, maize, rye, etc.), and unlike most plants, it contains all essential amino acids in the right amounts for the human body.
With our innovative QUINNOVA process, an innovative fractionation method for valorising EU cultivated low saponin quinoa seeds, we aim to produce two valuable ingredients demanded by the market place: Protein-Rich Quinoa to replace protein ingredients from animal sources and gluten-free Quinoa Starch, highly valuable for formulating high-quality gluten-free products.
The ultimate aim of the QUINNOVA project is to validate the current technology and up-scale its production process in order to scale up both QUINNOVA products into the market.
During the SME-Instrument Phase I (March-September 2019) we have conducted a feasibility study to analyse our project’s technical, commercial and financial viability.
From a technical point of view, we have (i) determined the parameters of our quinoa dry fractioning process thanks to the results obtained from pilot production runs, (ii) specified the QUINNOVA products’ functional properties, such as solubility, water and oil binding capacity, gelation and foaming properties, (iii) defined the stages that we need to go through to successfully scale-up QUINNOVA’s production and (iv) assessed the different options for scaling-up QUINNOVA’s production.
From a commercial point of view, we have (i) elaborated a study of the two main markets in which QUINNOVA can be embedded: the plant-based protein and quinoa flour markets, (ii) assessed the trends of our target markets: the meat substitutes, the sports nutrition and the gluten free food markets, (iii) conducted a life cycle assessment (LCA) to assess QUINNOVA’s environmental impact by comparing the impact of the cultivation of the EU grown low-saponin quinoa seeds to other animal and vegetable protein sources, (iv) defined our marketing strategy and (v) executed a preliminary freedom to operate (FTO) analysis.
From a financial point of view, we have (i) designed a strategic investment plan, which collects our financing needs to bring QUINNOVA to the market (ii) elaborated a financial forecast for the first 5 commercialisation years considering the number of potential users and keeping it financially interesting for the company and (iii) designed a strategic human resources plan.
Up to date there is no commercial use of dry fractionation technology adapted for quinoa to produce protein rich quinoa flour and gluten-free quinoa starch.
Novel methods for producing protein-enriched fractions are based on hybrid or wet processes, where the protein is extracted with organic solvents (hexane, petroleum, ether, etc.) followed by alkaline solubilisation and acid precipitation. These processes require large amount of water and energy, imply the generation of pollutant effluents and the loss of native functionality of proteins due to pH changes and high temperatures.

QUINNOVA’s innovative dry fractionation process based on physical separation through optimised geometry and accurate operating conditions achieves: (i) 77% of quinoa protein recovery, in the form of flour, making it the flour with the highest protein content commercially available in the market (24% compared to 12%, the average available in the market); (ii) 82-86% less energy consumption per kg of protein compared to novel hybrid fractionation and conventional extraction, respectively, and no-water needed (saving 5 to 10 litres of water per kg of protein); (iii) valorisation of the side stream, quinoa starch; and (iv) reduction of the generation of waste streams.
Quinnova Prototype