27 October 2021
After three and a half years, the Pro-Enrich project comes to an end the 31st of October of 2021. Pro-Enrich has gathered the expertise of 16 EU partners from 7 countries to develop novel functional proteins and bioactive ingredients from rapeseed, olive, tomato, and citrus fruit side streams for applications in food, cosmetics, pet food and adhesives.
Together, this group of SMEs, large enterprises and research centres have worked to optimise fractionation technologies, validating novel extraction processes across the entire biorefinery value chain.
During this time, Pro-Enrich has engaged and collaborated actively with key industry stakeholders: from farming and biomass suppliers to processors and brand name owners. This has made Pro-Enrich an inclusive action that gathered stakeholders from Farm to Fork, allowing it to deliver practical solutions to real sectorial problems.
Side streams from food processing and agriculture contain valuable compounds such as functional proteins and bioactive ingredients that can decrease our dependence on petrochemicals and animal proteins. However, most side streams are not being biorefined due to high costs and lack of processing knowledge. In this scenario, agricultural and food processing side streams go to waste; becoming a disposal problem both for farmers and the industry; an environmental challenge for our society and a missed opportunity for all actors in the value chain.
Pro-Enrich has worked to develop a cascading approach for the up-cycling of rapeseed, olive, tomato and citrus residues; creating value out of waste and helping reduce impacts associated with protein and food production like land-use for agriculture, water consumption, greenhouse gas emissions, or soil degradation – all the while, contributing to EU food self-sufficiency. As a result, Pro-Enrich provides highly valued marketable products such as sustainable alternatives to synthetic wood adhesives, antioxidant compounds of commercial interest in the cosmetics industry or high-quality alternatives to animal-derived proteins for the food and pet markets.
Pro-Enrich has faced challenges and adapted to unexpected events as the COVID19 pandemic, which has asked for renewed commitment from all partners and actors involved. Despite it all, the project has successfully reached its goals. As highlights, it has extracted protein concentrates and isolates of up to 92% protein and <0.3% fat from rapeseed meal from biodiesel production – both with great potential for applications in food, pet food or adhesives-; lycopene from tomato waste for application in the food industry; and the phenolic compound hesperidin from citrus waste ready for application in various cosmetic products.
Relevant publications of the project cover the publication of the peer reviewed article A comparison in protein extraction from four major crop residues in Europe using chemical and enzymatic processes-a review, the article in the Molecules journal Developing an Olive Biorefinery in Slovenia: Analysis of Phenolic Compounds Found in Olive Mill Pomace and Wastewater or the study Public perception study of biorefined products from side streams published in the Pro-Enrich project.
What is going to happen now? Pro-Enrich ends, but it has set up the road map for potential business models and market applications for the products and research carried out in the last three years and a half.
The materials and processes with the highest interest for the market have been identified (proteins from rapeseed and tomatoes, polyphenols from olive pomace, lignin from olive pomace, lycopene from tomatoes, hesperidin from citrus, and polysaccharides / dietary fibres from rapeseed, tomatoes, olive pomace and citrus) and value streams (rapeseed, tomato, olive, and citrus) analysed.
Value streams are not in the same exact development stage; however, they share a common key value proposition based on sustainability. Overall, the ambition now is to further explore opportunities to scale up, reach Demo scale, and ultimately, final market users.
Pro-Enrich: 3.5 years of biorefinery innovation