EU Call for Proposals: Large-scale production of proteins for food and feed applications from alternative, sustainable sources
The worldwide demand for protein is progressively expanding due to strong growth in the world’s population. Improvements in the standard of living in large parts of the world are adding to the protein demand1. Forecasts to 2050 show that current protein availability will not be sufficient to meet protein demand for food purposes. At the same time, Europe is highly dependent on imports of protein-rich material for feeding livestock: About 70 % of the total amount required is imported. Already 60-70 % of global arable land is used for animal feed to meet animal protein demand.
Consequently, the exploitation of new protein sources is necessary to meet the worldwide demand. European crops, together with residues and co-products from primary biomass cultivation, are valuable sources of proteins. Residues from animal processing, fisheries, aquaculture and algae industries also offer a potential, albeit currently underexploited, source of proteins. The bio-based industry could help to expand the production of protein-rich ingredients by valorising existing alternative sources from food/feed value chains and by taking full advantage of the successes of earlier (and ongoing) R&D and small-scale industrial operations.
The specific challenge is to increase the availability of sustainable, safe proteins sourced from alternative, sustainable sources.
Successfully operate a large-scale, first-of-its-kind bio-based value chain producing sustainable, safe food- and/or feed-grade proteins sourced from alternative, sustainable sources, such as residual streams from agriculture, other biomass production and related residual streams (like aquaculture, fisheries, or seaweed), or food industry side streams, through a cascading approach where applicable.
Proposals should include the whole value chain from the feedstock supply to processing and production steps for the targeted high added-value products. All relevant technologies in the different steps are applicable, provided they have been already proven at a significant scale (preferably demonstration levels TRLs 6-7, but at least pilot plant level TRL 5).
Proposals should focus primarily on proteins for food and feed applications. However, proposals could also consider functional proteins and other applications that may make it possible to generate new incomes and hence increase the overall sustainability of the value chains. Proposals should include extra valorisation steps through an integrated biorefinery setup.
Proposals should address the elimination of hurdles and bottlenecks regarding the logistics, transport modes and associated infrastructure in the targeted biomass feedstock supply systems. These include collection systems, intermediate storage and safety aspects.
Proposals need to take into account legislative limitations over the origin of the biomass feedstock when dealing with proteins for human or livestock nutrition. Proposals should include an assessment on safety, quality and purity for the target products, comparing them with the current (imported) proteins used for the same applications and end-products.
Proposals should also provide sound business case and business plan showing that sustainably produced feedstock streams are available in Europe, allowing to increase protein production in Europe and to reduce the imports of protein-rich products.
Proposals should specifically demonstrate the benefits versus the state-of-the-art and existing technologies. This could be done by providing evidence of new processing solutions and new products obtained. Proposals should demonstrate the techno-economic feasibility of the large-scale deployment of sustainable and efficient European value chains for proteins production.
Proposals should include a full assessment of the environmental, economic and social impacts of the developed products or processes, using LCSA methodologies based on available standards, certification, accepted and validated approaches (see also introduction – section 2.2.5 - published in the BBI JU AWP 2018).
Any potential hazards associated with the developed processes and products should be analysed to ensure that the products comply fully with REACH2legislation and other toxicity requirements, safety requirements and any relevant EU legislation.
If relevant, proposals should also allow for pre- and co-normative research necessary for developing the needed product quality standards.
The technology readiness level (TRL)3 at the end of the project should be 8. Proposals should clearly state the starting TRL. The proposed work should enable the technology to achieve TRL 8 within the timeframe of the project.
Illustration Photo: When the Ashbya gossypii fungus was first described in 1926, the tiny filamentous fungus was regarded with suspicion: as a tropical plant pest. Cotton plants that it infested no longer grew properly and citrus fruits dried out. But Ashbya gossypii can also make a positive contribution to the health of humans and animals. If vegetable oil as well as other nutrients are added to it, it produces vitamin B2, which is of key importance for many animals. It helps the human and animal organism to convert proteins, fats and starches into energy. At BASF the vitamin is produced via fermentation in special stirred tank reactors made of stainless steel. Here the temperature, pH value and ventilation are adjusted to suit the fungus so that it produces as much vitamin B2 as possible. BASF produces more than 1,000 metric tons of the vitamin annually and processes it, for example, into the animal feed additive Lutavit® SG 80. (credits: BASF / Flickr Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0))