In addition to a value increase of up to a factor 1,000, the perspectives are also natural food additives and better utilization of resources. Innovation Fund Denmark is investing DKK 14 million (EUR 1.9 million) in the project.
Today, seaweed and potatoes are used to extract a variety of additives for food production. This means that large quantities of residual products are generated, which are converted with a very low value and sold as animal feed or end up as waste.
But the residual products contain valuable proteins which—if they can be extracted sufficiently cost-effectively and efficiently—can be used to produce various additives such as preservatives, flavouring agents, and emulsifiers.
With the investment from Innovation Fund Denmark, researchers from DTU and Aalborg University will—in collaboration with five companies—develop tools that use knowledge about protein sequences to scan the residual product for proteins having properties that make them useful in the production of additives.
They will also develop tools to select precisely those parts of the proteins which are to be used in production. The residual products are currently sold at a price of DKK 1-15 per kg. The project partners expect that the extracted protein can be sold at a price per kg that is 10,000 times higher, depending on what it can be used for.
“The research project will give us a unique insight into whether the—for us—least valuable part of the potato can be used for new specialized ingredients in the production of food or non-food products,” says Ole Bandsholm Sørensen from the ingredients company KMC, one of the project partners.
However, it is not only extremely profitable to extract and sell the valuable proteins from the residual product. The proteins can also serve as a preservative and extend the life of the food products to which they are added:
“The new tools will add value to the residual products and ensure a better utilization of produce. The additives in which the extracted proteins will be used, will, among other things, help to extend food shelf life, so also in this respect does our project help to fight resource waste,” explains Project Manager and Professor Egon Bech Hansen from DTU Food.
On a global scale, very large quantities of food are lost, because they are not used in time. In the developing countries, it is particularly at the producers that the food products rot. In industrialized countries, it is the consumers who do not use the food products before their best before date. Thanks to this project, the proteins from the waste products may, among other things, be used as a preservative and ensure that the food products remain appetizing for a longer period of time.