When oil-seed plants and fish are processed, how can we use the parts not traditionally used in food? How about food ingredients, skincare and pesticides? EU-funded researchers have demonstrated sustainable ways to get the most out of produce. Companies are already building factories and machines to put the results to good use.
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According to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization, only 25-50% of a fish is used for food, while 10-40% of harvested rapeseed plants is used to make cooking oil. Parts not used for food – the “co-streams” of the processing – are used for other products such as animal feed.
These co-streams are an untapped source of food, health and agricultural products as they are rich in proteins, fatty acids such as omega 3, and other valuable compounds. The APROPOS project adapted mechanical and enzyme-based processes to extract these components from the co-streams to add to new products.
Increasing the amount of protein, fatty acids and minerals available from fish and plants helps feed the world’s population more sustainably, while producing ingredients for possible health, cosmetic and agricultural industries.
And because the processes developed in the EU-funded project avoid chemicals and use little water or energy, they limit damage to the environment while using resources more wisely.
Added value for industry
Food production already uses the fish and plant parts that are traditionally used as food. “APROPOS took the best from the rest,” says project coordinator Raija Lantto of the VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland.
So far, members of APROPOS have demonstrated a number of extracts from fish and oil-seed co-streams. Lantto says these are:
- protein powder from fish-filleting residues – added to low-protein food to make it more nutritious;
- protein from rapeseed, extracted using a water-lean processing system – potentially more profitable than the current methods and could provide an alternative to soy bean protein;
- anti-oxidising and anti-inflammatory bioactive peptides extracted from fish and rapeseed – for skincare creams to prevent ageing or treat acne, or in textiles to prevent nappy rash;
- insecticide from mustard seed residue – this kills the oriental leaf worm moth, a serious crop pest in Asia and Africa.
Work in progress
APROPOS did not develop new processes but used existing processes in new ways. It used mechanical processing, enzymes and non-toxic gases – such as CO2 – to remove bio-chemical components from the co-streams of food processing.
The process produced extracts that were refined just enough to be useful by other industries rather than being pure component extracts, Lantto explains. This was to minimise the environmental impact of processing the components further.
The project team has published its results in trade and academic publications. And although the processes need a lot of technical development before they can be commercialised, according to Lantto, SMEs have already shown an interest in the project’s applications.
A Norwegian SME has done extensive development on APROPOS’s process for fish protein powder and is building a factory for production, while an affordable prototype of the supplement has been developed to be used in East-Africa.
In India an SME is developing pilot machinery to commercialise mustard-seed pesticide.
Lantto is happy with the project’s results: “We got a lot of new knowledge and ideas for process development.” She adds that project partners have built close links that they hope to maintain in future collaborations.