Residual and side-stream flows from agriculture, food industry and landscape management, are often a major cost item. Potentially, farmers, industrial companies and governments can derive value from these flows, with positive effects for nature and the climate. Moreover, this valuable biomass is desperately needed, because raw materials are becoming scarce. Wageningen Food and Biobased Research is mapping out the opportunities for full use and how partners can valorise these opportunities.
From cost to valuable product
Leaves from sugar beet, tomato stalks, wheat straw, cutting and pruning waste, roadside grass, fruit and vegetable pulp: these are all examples of organic streams that can often only be processed or disposed of at high cost. An increasing amount of companies are aware of the enormous potential to produce renewable products. Examples are natural fibres, proteins, fermentable sugars, glues and biodegradable plastics, and also ingredients for pharmaceutical products and human nutrition. In this way, a cost item can be transformed into a valuable product that contributes to our sustainable, circular ambitions. But where to start? What are the potential applications and challenges? How does the value chain change? And is it financially feasible? These are questions that you have to deal with. You also want to know what studies have already been carried out and what legislation and regulations are in place. And: is it possible to quantify the potential sustainability gains and use them as a selling point?
Viable new biomass chains
Wageningen Food & Biobased Research looks at the entire biomass composition. We know the specific properties and functionalities of the various components and the interactions between these components. We work together with partners who want a better valorisation of their by-products. We help them find new applications and develop processing routes to get there. In doing so, we strive not only for economic feasibility, but also for better quality and more sustainability. A major advantage is that we oversee the entire value chain, from harvest or even before to producer and consumer. Because of this integrated approach with a wide range of specialisms, we can create innovative and viable new chains together with partners.
Greenprotein and Binderless Board
A good example of our work is the process development of extracting Rubisco protein from sugar beet leaves: Greenprotein. After harvest, the leaf remains on the land and hardly contributes to the re-fertilisation of the land. But as it rots, a lot of CO2 disappears into the air and nitrogen and phosphate are washed into the groundwater. Together with a few SME entrepreneurs and Cosun, we have developed a process to extract the proteins from the leaf efficiently while keeping the functional properties intact. This has resulted in a profitable process in which the extracted proteins can be used as a substitute for animal proteins in food products such as ice cream, biscuits and meat substitutes. Cosun is currently building a demonstration factory.
In the Binderless Board project, two residual fractions are coming together. Fibres from lignocellulosic streams, such as grass or tomato plants, can be used for board materials, but need a glue to stick together. Wageningen Food & Biobased Research has developed a process to extract lignin from the same lignocellulose that is suitable as natural binder to these fibres resulting in a fully biobased board material.
Do you have residual or side streams and would you like to convert it into valuable products? Do you see opportunities to realise your circular ambitions with your biomass? Wageningen Food & Biobased Research will be pleased to help you identify the opportunities and support you in the development of valuable, sustainable applications.