Sustainable biobased products from agrifood side streams


EFFoST is excited to share the final results of the INGREEN project. Together with 17 partners, we contributed to the development of functional ingredients for food, feed, pharma/nutraceuticals, cosmetics and bio-degradable packaging from paper and agro-food side streams through biotechnology.

The INGREEN project developed new methods to produce bio-based ingredients from side streams that may have otherwise gone to waste. With the help of safe microorganisms and newly developed eco-friendly technologies, new ingredients and products were made for the food, feed, pharma, cosmetic, nutraceutical, packaging sectors.

There are one trillion species of microbes on earth. INGREEN was tasked to screen a huge number of microorganisms, to identify which ones are able to transform side-stream substrates into useful compounds. Additionally, the right conditions needed to be determined to allow the selected microorganism to grow quickly and produce useful ingredients, this included factors such as light, temperature, PH, and moisture.  

Once the microorganisms have grown on the substrate, the next step is to develop new products with the released compounds. Please find below an overview of the prototypes that were subsequently developed by INGREEN, per side stream.

Whey is a by-product of cheese makinga side stream from the dairy sector.  The INGREEN researchers produced the following products using safe microorganisms as well as the application of enzymes to produce GOS.

  1. Innovative Caciotta cheese with accelerated ripening time compared to traditional caciotta cheese. By adding the Y. lipolytica biomasses, INGREEN was able to produce an innovative cheese that has a stronger and unique taste and smell, and does not contain the preservative natamycin and has a longer shelf life.
  2. Intimate cleanser enriched with LBA and GOS – This innovative Intimate cleanser containing galactooligosaccharides (GOS) and lactobionic acid (LBA) produced from cheese whey provides antibacterial properties and protection of vaginal microbiota. It provides freshness and protection through lactic acid and plant extracts; better protection through the prebiotic effect; and better skin properties through LBA.
  3. Vaginal gel – LBA and GOS from whey provide this cosmetic gel with good antimicrobial and anti-biofilm properties towards pathogens responsible for vaginal diseases

Wheat and rye bran
The bran used for the project is a side stream from the milling process of wheat and rye. The INGREEN researchers developed pre-fermented ingredients by applying microbial consortia based on yeasts and lactic acid bacteria. These ingredients are ready to be used without the need for extraction or purification. The following prototypes were made:

  1. Functional bakery products – the pre-fermented ingredients gave an appealing flavour and smell properties. In addition to the benefits provided by the prebiotic properties to improve gut health, it also had a longer shelf life.
  2. Nutraceutical supplements  – This product contains GOS from cheese whey and prefermented dietary fibre from wheat bran. The supplement promotes the growth of beneficial species of human gut microbiota.

Paper milling wastewater
INGREEN used microorganisms and paper milling wastewater to grow biomasses rich in Polyhydroxyalkanoates, also known as PHA.  The researchers developed the following products from the recovered PHA.

  1. Nutritious animal feed – Enriched PHA biomasses were combined with other feed ingredients to create a animal feed with a balanced nutritional composition. PHA has prebiotic properties that can stimulate the growth of good gut microbes, improving the general well-being and health of the animal.
  2. Biodegradable packaging film – purified PHA can be used to produce high-quality biodegradable packaging film for food and cosmetic products. When it is combined with other compounds it produces a strong and flexible film, which is a sustainable alternative to synthetic plastics.

Once optimized at lab scale, these sustainable biotechnologies were demonstrated in real operational environments:

  • At Mambelli a fermenter of 20 liter was developed to produce Y. lipolitica biomass from whey. Subsequently, the biomass is added to 500L of milk for cheesemaking, which then produces approximately 50 pieces of innovative Caciotta cheese of 1 kg each.
  • At Barilla a pilot was set up to make prefermented ingredients.  40-50 kg of prefermented ingredients would then produce up to 350 kg of bread
  • At Smurfit Kappa a PHA pilot plant was set up with 3 batches for the treatment of 6 mof papermill wastewaters.

INGREEN was financed under the Bio-based Industries Joint Undertaking (BBI JU) with over 6.3 million euros in funding over three and a half years. This is part of the Horizon 2020 program and is a partnership between the European Union and the Bio-based Industries Consortium.

If you would like to learn more about the project’s result, check out our online workshops on the wheywheat and rye bran, and paper milling wastewater side streams and visit the INGREEN project website.