News Unique protein processing line helps companies get started with innovative proteins

24/08/2023 Source: Flanders' FOOD
Food Pilot

Chickpeas, soy, insects, algae and even bacteria and fungi are some of the many sources of protein that will play a greater role within a diverse diet in the future. To successfully incorporate these new types of proteins into food products that are not only tasty but also of high quality, knowledge and process expertise are still lacking. This is now changing with the new protein processing line in the Food Pilot in Melle, operated by ILVO and Flanders' FOOD.

Jo Brouns, Flemish minister of agriculture, food, economy and innovation, will open the protein processing line with 20 new devices on Nov. 24. The infrastructure will allow food companies and researchers to test out the entire process from raw alternative protein source to pure ready-to-eat protein ingredient on a pilot scale.

The pilot line consists of equipment that can perform each step from harvested raw material, over protein concentrates and isolates to even textured proteins on a semi-industrial scale and in a controlled manner. This allows each of these processes to be optimized so that protein-rich, high-quality food products are obtained.

For the installation, the partners could count on 208,000 euro subsidy from the ERDF project Plant Protein Pilot, 104,000 euro subsidy from the VLAIO and support from the province of East Flanders. Own contributions from ILVO through the VLAIO project TexProSoy and co-financing from the members of Flanders' FOOD also contribute to the realization. The pilot line will be further expanded in the future with smaller-scale equipment through the Innolab project, which can also count on a 512,000 euro subsidy from the ERDF and support from the province of East Flanders. The total investment amounts to more than 1.5 million euros.

Jo Brouns, Flemish minister of agriculture, food, economy and innovation

"I am particularly pleased to be able to open the new protein food processing line today. It ensures that companies and researchers can test and optimize their innovative idea here, to be produced afterwards on an industrial scale. In this way we support Flanders' most important product: our grey matter, and make the link with the practical economy. The collaboration between ILVO and Flanders' FOOD ensures that we can really make a success of this."

Lieve Herman, ILVO Department of Technology and Nutrition

"Extracting alternative protein ingredients requires successive processing steps that could potentially affect the functional properties, nutritional quality and taste of the proteins. The lack of knowledge about these three aspects is gradually becoming the bottleneck for further exploitation. This new pilot infrastructure enables us to gain more insight into these aspects and this for different protein sources."

Inge Arents, Flanders' FOOD,

"Thanks to pilot infrastructure such as this, food companies from the meat, bakery, dairy and other sectors will have access to research and innovation to produce innovative food of tóp quality, competitively strong in the market, and with respect for sustainability, and the wide range of protein sources can effectively enter our diet."

Several collective research projects are also immediately planning experiments with the new devices. In the Flanders' FOOD project TexProSoy, with the support of VLAIO and in collaboration with ILVO and KU Leuven, the effect of the extraction and texturation process on the properties of Flemish soy protein is being examined. In the Flanders' FOOD project ProFuNu, with the support of VLAIO and in collaboration with UGent, KU Leuven, ILVO and Thomas More, one works on proteins from peas, mealworms, spirulina and fungi. They are studying the impact of processing on nutritional and functional quality and the effect on digestibility and intestinal health.

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