Feasibility studies for a Biobased Economy

In the minor Biobased Technology students of Wageningen University are investigating the added value of green materials for a Biobased Economy.

In the academic year 2012-2013 they worked on feasibility studies on the added value of sugar beat leaves, tomato- and pepper residues, cattail and woody ornaments. Their commissioners were entrepreneurs and researchers from different regions in the Netherlands.

Perhaps you will be eating an ice-cream with sugar beet protein within a few years
Students Wageningen University

Read about the feasibility studies on the added value of sugar beat leaves and woody ornaments:

Meat replacer from sugar beat leaves?

The provinces of Drenthe and Groningen, TNO, ProLeaf and Cosun started a project that aims to extract rubisco, a possible meat replacer, from sugar beet leaves. The protein rubisco has been studied intensively in science. Besides being used as a meat replacer, it can also be used to create foams in products like ice-cream. Rubisco represents a high grade protein, suitable for human and animal consumption because it contains all essential amino acids that the human body uses. It can be found in almost all leaves of plants.

After the harvest of sugar beets for sugar production, the leaves are discarded on the field. These leaves however, can be used for rubisco extraction. Sugar beet leaves need to be fresh in order to produce rubisco, therefore harvesting and rubisco extraction need to be performed simultaneously. Sugar beets are harvested only from September until December in the Netherlands. It may prove very inefficient for a factory to have a biorefinery operating only a few months a year. ProLeaf also searched for other plants for rubisco extraction that could be harvested in other months. Grass waste from municipal areas turned out to be a good option. TNO did research on rubisco production from alfalfa, an animal feed crop, which could also be an alternative.

This project considered different techniques to purify rubisco from plants. When the leaves are pressed and the protein is released in a green liquid phase, purification starts. Centrifugation combined with membrane filtration appeared to be the most promising technique for application on a large scale. With this technique the green fraction is removed in a centrifugation step and subsequent membrane filtration removes small proteins, phenolic components, salts and water, while large proteins are retained. Large proteins, like rubisco, cannot pass through the membrane. The rubisco concentrate can be spray dried in order to preserve it and make it suitable for application in food products. This process as such may prove a cost effective method to produce food-grade proteins from plant leaves.

A lot of research is still being done on this project, but results are promising. Perhaps you will be eating an ice-cream with sugar beet rubisco within a few years!

Bio-waste as source for pharmaceutical

In Boskoop, a tree nursery area in the region Groene Hart, different kind of conifers, Buxus and Ilex are located. Research shows that these plant species contain pro-ducts with pharmaceutical value. Products out of conifers are already used in pharmaceuticals. With this potential Boskoop contributes to the bio-based economy.

The region Boskoop is known for its wide spread fields of nurseries. Different kinds of plant species are located as the Buxus sempervirens, Ilex verticillata and different species of conifers. Yearly more than 10.000 tons of green waste is trimmed out of this area.

Research shows that these species contain products with pharmaceutical value. Diseases as HIV, cancer and Alzheimer can in the future be treated by these products.

Today, products out of the conifers can already be used. Taxol which can be extracted from the bark of Taxus baccata is used anti- cancer and anti-leukemia. Out of the needles of conifers in general, a paste can be extracted known as CC-CP. CC-CP works herbal as an anti-microbial, antioxidant, stimulates the immune system and so on.

The depletion and the negative aspects of fossil fuels call for a change. Using products out of bio-waste stimulates the “Bio-based economy”. With these pharmaceuticals out of the bio-waste, Boskoop contributes to the Bio-based economy.