Bioengineering tomorrows’ sustainable plant-based food

Two new projects with participation from the Technical University of Denmark (DTU) aim at developing a new food category of tasty plant-based proteins.

Two projects led by researchers at University of Copenhagen and DTU with funding from the Novo Nordisk Foundation aim at creating an entirely new category of climate-friendly plant-based foods and to convert rapeseed proteins from feed to food respectively, thereby developing novel sustainable food sources for the growing global population.

Providing enough proteins through sustainable food production is a huge challenge that is only becoming more pressing as the global population continues to grow. By 2050, the global population is expected to reach 9,7 billion people.

Using fermentation to optimise plant-based protein sources
The project PROFERMENT, run by the Department of Food Science at the University of Copenhagen in collaboration with DTU and Utrecht University in the Netherlands, has received DKK 56 million from the Novo Nordisk Foundation to develop the basic knowledge required to invent a completely new category of sustainable, plant-based foods as an alternative to animal protein sources.

“We want to find some plant-based alternatives to meat that do not necessarily look like meat, but which offer the same enjoyment of food that meat provides for many of us,” explains project leader Dennis Sandris Nielsen from Copenhagen University.

The research is based on yellow peas and oats, as both crops grow well in the northern hemisphere and have a naturally relatively high protein content. At the same time, they are crops that are currently being used primarily for animal feed. The idea is further to transfer the method to other crops.

The researchers will process the plants using fermentation to make them more flavourful and last longer. Furthermore, the researchers will use a combination of Bacillus bacteria and various moulds for the processing of both yellow peas and oats, thereby increasing the nutritional value and creating the desired structure and taste.

Converting rapeseed proteins from feed to food
The other research project SEEDFOOD attempts to change the use of rapeseed from being a seed mainly used for animal feed, to a source of proteins used for human food in the future.

The research project has been established with a grant of DKK 56 million kroner from the Novo Nordisk Foundation Challenge Programme and is being led from Department of Food Science at University of Copenhagen with participation from DTU and University of Le Mans.

Rapeseed proteins are currently not used for food due to substances that block or limit the utilisation of the nutrient content.

“Many plant proteins have a low content of the essential amino acids that humans need, which are found in animal proteins. But the content of these essential amino acids is quite high in rapeseed compared to other plant sources, and this is also one of the reasons why we have chosen to investigate how we can process the rapeseed so it is suitable as a healthy and tasty source of nutrition for humans,” says the project leader Marianne Nissen Lund.

Source: DTU Bioengineering

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