The PROLIFIC project sets its activity in the frame of the Circular Economy Package launched in 2017 by DG Environment of the European Commission, that strongly promotes the adoption of cascades of processes to use biomass in integrated biorefineries and the innovative use of co-products, side-products, residual streams and biowaste to obtain value-added bio-based chemicals and materials to address specific market demands. Among possible biomass, those deriving from the entire food chain (from the farmers to the consumers) are by far those generating yearly the largest amount of co-products, residues and wastes (1.3 BT/year globally; FAO). Those residues are yet a rich source of useful compounds like carbohydrates, proteins, lipids and polyphenols, which could find high-value applications in many industrial sectors.
Most importantly, innovative and sustainable biorefinery processes starting from protein-rich side products could significantly contribute to face the projected global demand for food proteins (largely exceeding current production capacities) which is expected to increase by 76% in 2050 due to the steadily growing world population. This predicted shortage in proteins resource is amplified by the increasing income per capita in industrialising countries in Asia and South and Middle America. In particular, the increase in the demand for animal protein will result in a tremendous growth in the need for feed protein4, which will be hard to meet in an eco-sustainable way given the high resource footprint of producing animal-derived food products (projected 80% increase in greenhouse gases by 2050).
PROLIFIC will take on the resource challenge by developing sustainable technologies and procedures to recover proteins, fibres and other bioactive compounds from processing residues and valorise them in the formulation of different product prototypes such as cereal-based, vegetarian/vegan and meat food products, cosmetic creams and toothpaste, bioactive and biodegradable food and cosmetic packaging (i.e. bioactive and biodegradable coffee capsules), feed for pigs and poultry. Protein and derivates thereof will be sourced from legumes, fungi and coffee, and fibres from legumes and coffee residues. The targeted bioactive compounds are chitosan and b-glucans (from fungi), polyphenols (from legumes, fungi and coffee), carotenoids and phytosterols (from legumes) and caffeine (from coffee).
The overall impact of the Prolific project is to address specific challenges posed by the valorisation of untapped biomass streams. Specifically, these include:
- Addressing the present European food policy for the provision of safe, nutritious, high quality and affordable food to European consumers by valorising the increasing amounts of side-streams from the processing of legumes, fungi and coffee;
- Become the leading solutions’ provider for ingredients/additive alternatives or complementary to those currently available
- Contributing to meet the increasing demand for bio-based, active, and biodegradable molecules and polymers to be used for polymer formulations and applications;
- Introducing and validating bio-polymers and green additives in packaging applications
- Growing the bio-plastics sector and thus mitigating climate change;
- Contributing to produce new generation of functional feed products also aiming at reducing the dependency from antibiotics
- Contributing to produce innovative cosmetic products using more sustainable bio-based ingredients