Future-proof alternative terrestrial protein sources

RESEARCH PROJECT »Smart Protein«

Cooked meal with roasted asparagus and mycoprotein based meat
© MOGU - Antoni Gandia
Vegan protein meal with textured mycoprotein
Logo Smart Protein
EU flag plus "Horizon 2020" text supplement

Development of new protein-rich foods

The Fraunhofer IVV is participating in the Smart Protein project that is being funded by the European Union's Horizon 2020 programme. The main objective of the project is to utilize alternative sustainable protein sources and so make a key contribution to safeguarding future protein provision. The project thus tackles challenges posed by climate change and the need to feed the world's population.

Potential protein sources being investigated for innovative protein-rich foods include plants and fungi and also secondary and residual materials from the food industry. The first food products, for example plant-based alternatives to meat, fish, seafood, cheese, baby food, milk products, and baked products are planned for commercialization by 2025.

Sustainable utilization of residual materials for high-quality foods

The strategy being adopted in the Smart Protein project is unique because the focus is on utilization of secondary and residual materials from the food industry that would normally be used for the production of animal feed. Fermentation processes are being developed in order to recover high-quality microbial protein from edible fungi, starting from residual materials from noodle production, breadmaking (crusts), and beer brewing (spent yeast and rootlets from the malting).

In addition, protein-rich plants such as faba beans, lentils, chickpeas, and quinoa are being investigated as potential sustainable protein sources for food production. The focus here is on improving the texture, odor, and taste of the new food products. The development of cost-efficient processes for protein extraction and analysis of the chemical composition of the proteins, the polymer structure, the physical-chemical properties, and protein-protein interactions are key aspects of the project work. The aim is to maximize the functionality of the recovered proteins and expand their usage in food products and drinks.

Research on sustainable proteins at the Fraunhofer IVV

The Fraunhofer IVV is involved in the following areas of the project work: Plant protein extraction and upcycling of secondary materials as well as development of plant-based food products.

The expertise of the Fraunhofer scientists in fractionation processes (dry fractionation and aqueous extraction) is being used for the customized development and optimization of sustainable processes for the manufacture of protein concentrates and isolates having valuable technofunctional, sensory, and nutri-physiological properties. Faba beans, lentils, chickpeas, and quinoa are being utilized as raw materials. The relevant production processes are being tested on a pre-commercial scale in collaboration with industrial partners.

Furthermore, the Fraunhofer IVV and other project partners are developing fractionation processes for fungal mycelia in order to recover proteins and carbohydrates from them for use in foods. The focus of the product development is on protein-rich plant-based meat alternatives and seafood substitutes. To make these products the process parameters for dry extrusion are being specially customized and verified on a near-industrial scale.

Project term: 2020 to 2023
Projct management/ project funding: EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation - Horizon 2020
Project partners: 33 project partners from industry and R&D organizations in 9 EU countries plus partners from Israel, New Zealand, and the USA. The project consortium covers the entire value-creation chain for food production, from growers and farmers to manufactures of food ingredients and end food products.
Website: smartproteinproject.eu
Preceding project (2015 bis 2020):
Protein2Food – Development of high quality food protein through sustainable procuction and processing