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Revalorisation of vegetable processing industry remnants into high-value functional proteins and other food ingredients

Periodic Reporting for period 3 - GreenProtein (Revalorisation of vegetable processing industry remnants into high-value functional proteins and other food ingredients)

Reporting period: 2020-01-01 to 2021-05-31

The EU28 imports 77% of the protein it requires, for food or feed, representing an important vulnerability for our economy, risking our self-sufficiency and food security. GreenProtein aims at a major innovation by producing high-added value, food-grade and fully functional proteins and other ingredients, out of vegetal residues mainly from sugar beet.

The main outcome of this project has been the establishment of a DEMO plant able to valorise sugar beet leaves and other crops into a high-quality dry RuBisCo powder ready to enter food industry production chains as an alternative of the widely used egg white preparations or whey protein. We are the first team worldwide, covering the whole food chain, to design an extraction system of functional RuBisCO. The project has designed and implement specific equipment not only for the extraction of protein, but also for harvesting sugar beet leaves.

The Green Protein process has been proven to be technologically feasible. Sugar beet leaves can be processed to leaf protein isolate (LPI) and the obtained protein has top valuable functionalities required in food industry, such as gelling, foaming or emulsifying.

Although further optimisation of purification is recommendable, the obtained LPI has demonstrated to be a new functional protein for the food industry and the consumer that will contribute to the nutritional and sensory quality of various food products, such as meat analogues.

The outcomes have excellent market projection due to their application in growing consumer needs like high-protein foodstuff, vegan, halal, etc.
An important effort has been made on adapting the extraction process to a larger scale. Numerous tests have been carried out in the pilot plant to obtain the final extraction process and conditions. With this information we designed a fully operational DEMO plant. The first DEMO plant to extract functional RuBisCo from vegetable residues has been designed, built and operated since 2019. It was presented to the public in 2019, through an on-site event with more than 90 attendees. Since then, functional RuBisCo has been extracted obtaining excellent results.

Since sugar beet season extends only from September to November and thus discarded beet leaf is only available during those months, the project has successfully searched and tested alternative products to extract RuBisCo.

Industry has shown a great interest for our product. First contacts with future customers has been made. The ongoing market analysis shows good projections.
A novel food EFSA dossier was submitted in order to obtain the autorisation for product commercialisation.

The consortium attended more than 10 events to present the project in different EU countries. Starting March 2020, the consortium fully adapted its D&C activities to mitigate the impact of the COVID-10 pandemic. All project partners took part in a project promotional video. Social media and website have been continuously updated and used to engage with key stakeholders and the general public.
The GreenProtein project is a frontrunner from the technical and commercial point of view. It provides a significant progress in the state of the art in the field of plant proteins. The project has demonstrated that the extraction of functional RuBisCo from vegetable material at DEMO scale is feasible. This achievement has important socio-economic implications, being the most important:

Wider available of European protein – GreenProtein technology is able to unlock the potential of vegetable residues as protein source, decreasing the external dependency on non-EU imported proteins.

Vegetal protein – As a new source of non-animal protein, GreenProtein technology can contribute to reduce the environmental impacts caused by the production of animal protein. Rubisco will help to create better tasting consumer products thus accelerating the acceptance of plant based products like meat alternative in the market.

Promotion of circular bio economy – The green discards which are used as raw material for our extraction process are currently underused biomass. Therefore, our project also contributes to put in practice the principles of circular bio economy. It will increase the crop value at farmers level.
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