Towards a Comprehensive Biomass Upgrading
High Quality Nutritional Peptides From Vegetable Agrifood Byproducts
- © Luis Carlos Jimenez del rio/Shutterstock
- Fig. 1: Processing scheme of nutritional peptide production. AgriFood byproducts e.g. defatted oil crops are enzymatically digested. Peptides are extracted with water and fractionated through chromatographic resins. Fractions are collected, spray dried and utilized according to their properties.
- Fig. 2: example for the fractionation result on a 10 liter chromatographic column. The separation of colour and inorganic salt (conductivity peak) from the peptides can be clearly seen. Antioxidative activity was estimated with an Assay Kit (Sigma-Aldrich CS0790) to demonstrate the fractionation of functional activities. Antioxidative peptides were spray dried.
- Fig. 3: estimated markets and prices for novel peptide based products from agrifood byproducts and under-utilized crops.
Proteins are, in this respect, the essential and major key components in food. A sustainable supply of protein for the world’s growing population can only be achieved by concerted efforts to maximize the exploitation of the natural food resources via upcycling of discards and food processing coproducts into edible protein. In addition, a growing shift towards vegetable protein sources will effectively reduce the carbon footprint from food consumption, as an important step towards the goals set in the “Paris-Agreement” .
A new technological approach combines intelligent enzyme supported extraction with selective and flexible fractionation processes utilizing membrane separation and large scale process chromatography. The procedure is economically and ecologically highly competitive and able to remove antinutrient or off-flavour contaminations from almost any protein source, and simultaneously enriches peptides with benefical nutritional, organoleptic, techno- and biofunctional properties.
An intelligent food compliant enzyme-assisted extraction process transforms all proteins into soluble and highly bioavailable peptides which contain significantly enhanced functional properties. The partly hydrolysed protein extracts show generally better nutritional values due to easier digestibility and more effective intestinal absorption. Additionally, these hydrolysates contain peptides with enhanced bio- and technofunctional properties, all occurring without any loss of nutritional quality .
The key innovation for the protein upgrading is a new chromatographic process, recently developed by the Institute of Food Technology.NRW . The basic technology is well known and has been used already by the sugar industry at multi-ton scale for molasses fractionation in up to 100 m3 columns.
Separation is based on ion exclusion, and the eluent is water without any additives. With selected chromatographic resins and modified elution conditions, the process is now capable of separating crude protein hydrolysates into specific peptide mixtures at large scale, at low costs and minimal chemical consumption levels. Enrichment of beneficial peptides is just as possible as the removal of unwanted compounds. It is the first time ever that industrial scale peptide fractionations are made technically feasible for low costs and with high flexibility. A patent application has been filed  by the Hochschule Ostwestfalen-Lippe for this technology.
Due to the enzymatic digestion of the proteins into peptides, the resulting hydrolysates generally lose any allergenic potential possibly possessed by the undigested proteins. Additionally, they contain peptides with outstanding techno- or biofunctional properties. Some can be used as emulsifiers, antioxidants, or they improve the flavour and texture of food. Some show anti-hypertensive, immune-stimulating or antimicrobial effects. Many peptides show accumulations or deficiencies of certain amino acids, with impact for infant, sport’s or dietetic nutrition.
The new technology opens the door to the development of a novel range of products in the food and the pharmaceutical sector. For instance, the opportunity to produce hydrolysates with reduced bitterness and allergenic epitopes will have direct application in the development of infant hypoallergenic formulae in the food and in the pharmaceutical sector. Specific peptide fractions could be used in immunotherapy with food allergens. Similarly, enriched fractions in bioactive peptides (antimicrobial, antihypertensive, antioxidant) may have a direct application in the enrichment of food products with enhanced health and nutritional properties. In other cases, the application of this technology will allow the direct use of some hydrolysates whose utilization is precluded due to technological or organoleptic characteristics (bitterness). Finally, from a nutritional point of view, the opportunity to obtain food ingredients based on hydrolysates enriched in certain amino acids, or, on the contrary, lacking certain aminoacids could have a direct application in products directed to the elderly, coeliac disease, phenylketonuria, etc.
Production and Commercialisation
Based on the technological R&D achievements and the market prospect of new protein based food products, the first steps towards a commercial production of Nutritional Peptides are on their way. This year, the project won the highly regarded Biotechnology Founders Competition “GO-Bio”  of the German Ministry for Research and Education (BMBF). The founder team will be supported by a two million Euros grant and another one million Euros private investment for the setup of a pilot scale production of selected peptide mixtures from vegetable agricultural sidestreams, and market development.
Since the new technology is expected to offer a universally applicable solution for the transformation of nonfood protein biomass into nutritional products, it has also a great political impact as a contribution towards a sustainable assurance of future protein food demands of a growing and aging world population.
Furthermore we are convinced that process chromatography is an absolutely underestimated tool for big scale biorefinery processes and will develop into a key technology for future biorecycling and bioseparation in the sustainable management of biomass resources, far above the peptide separations. Chromatography in science is generally associated with small scale, expensive equipment, and the use of large quantities of chemicals like solvents, salts, or acids. Existing industrial processes like the chromatographic molasses separation has already proven that chromatographic separation can be available basically for the evaporation costs of the added water.
The research was funded by two grants of the federal republic of Germany (BMBF): “isolation of valuable compounds from biomass wastestreams by process chromatography”(Funding program: FHProfUnt); “functional peptide fractions from proteinous residues” (funding program: Ideenwettbewerb Bioökonomie).
H.-J. Danneel1, H. van Bracht2, T. Broeker1, J. Tachil1
1 Institut für Lebensmitteltechnologie.NRW, Hochschule Ostwestfalen-Lippe, Detmold, Germany
2 NutriteQ GmbH, Lemgo, Germany
Prof. Hans-Jürgen Danneel
Institut für Lebensmittetechnologie.NRW