Infinity Vegetables

Within the public private partnership Infinity Vegetables several companies and the research institute Food & Biobased Research cooperate on the valorisation of waste streams originating from vegetable production. The ultimate goal is to add as much value as possible to vegetable waste streams following the waste hierarchy of Moerman. The underlying idea is ‘food should remain food’.

Amount of product waste

During primary production, trade and industrial processing an annual total of 860 kton of product waste in generated for 20 different vegetables combined in the sourcing area of interest (The Netherlands, Belgium and the western part of Germany). This amount equals 12.8% of the total primary production of the selected 20 vegetables. The product waste consists of waste from carrots (37%), onions (27%), white cabbage (8%), tomatoes (8%) and other vegetables (20%). The product waste streams contain valuable components, such as vitamins, minerals, carotenes, amino acids and flavonoids.

Extraction of components

To be able to valorise the components extraction and purification to the desired quality is key. The results of the technological research, performed by TOP BV, shows promising results. The technology aims at different components and waste streams of variable characteristics (hardness, water content, etc.). The extraction method is considered mild in terms of effects on the extracted components and energy use.

A single waste processing factory

Research on the transportation of waste streams from the different origins (primary production, trade and industrial processing) shows that a single factory per product or product group suffices to process the waste streams from the sourcing area. This is mainly due to the relative low costs for transport compared to the construction and operation of a factory. Additional efficiency can be obtained if the factory can process product waste of different kind of vegetables (in terms of maintaining a year round influx of sourcing material).

Market and applications

Combining information of amount of waste, the compositions and potential economic value gives insight in the economic potential of the extraction of components from vegetable product waste.

For economic valorisation combinations of possible uses are expected. It will not be possible to convert the entire product waste streams into products suitable for human consumption, remains after extraction could possibly be used for animal feed.

Current research topics

A life cycle analysis is performed on different production chains of dietary fibres and of beta-carotene. Furthermore, the functional properties of carrot fibres are investigated and compared with currently available dietary fibres for food application. The effects of the intended extraction technology are investigated. Also, the challenges in protein extraction form vegetables is reviewed and the quality of obtained protein fraction is investigated.

The consortium cooperated on business cases for a number of examples of extracted components.