The scientists are investigating, among other things, how the protein in chicken bones can be used in most effective way. Photo: Jon-Are Berg-Jacobsen/Nofima

By-products – a new source of protein

Better use of by-products from food production offers an enormous potential, but if we are to succeed we need analytical tools that can be used for the development, optimization and monitoring of valorizationprocesses. Scientists at the food research institute Nofima are developing such tools.

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Nils Kristian Afseth

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For this, they are using various types of vibrational spectroscopy, which provide rapid, simple and highly sensetive measurements that can be involved in characterisation of the by-products, processes and products. Furthermore, scientists have deep fundamental knowledge about the raw materials. This knowledge is a requirement for the development of high-quality analytical tools for sorting, monitoring and optimization.

“We use sorting technology such as vibrational spectroscopy in order to develop new and better processes, in a way that the food by-products can be better utilised in high-value products. For example, proteins extracted from chicken by-products can be processed into high quality protens which can be used in different applications,” says scientist Nils Kristian Afseth at Nofima. He is principal investigator for several projects looking at better use of food by-products. What is meant by high quality, however, depends on what the material will be used to in the end, of course.

Careful monitoring

The scientists are investigating, among other things, how the protein in chicken bones can be used in most effective way, and they are using enzymatic hydrolysis to do so. This involves the use of special enzymes that break long protein chains into shorter ones, or peptides, such that the digestibility of the proteins increases and their functional properties change.

The greatest challenge is to know which hydrolysis process gives the most suitable proteins for a particular product. It is difficult to monitor the process, and in the absence of good monitoring, time is currently used as an important indicator.

“We are developing measurement methods for this monitoring, based on infrared spectroscopy,” says Nils Kristian Afseth.

These systems are being developed in several projects in which Nofima is participating:

– Hydrolysemonitor (led by Nofima, financed by the Foundation for Research Levy on Agricultural Products (FFL)/JA in collaboration with Biomega AS, Jærkylling AS and Norilia AS)

– Chickenlysis (led by Nortura Hærland AS, financed by the Oslo Fjord Fund in collaboration with Norilia AS)

– Cycle (led by SINTEF Fisheries and Aquaculture, financed by the Research Council of Norway (BIONÆR)).

Healthy fatty acids

Can filamentous fungi do the same job as fish or plants, and produce healthy polyunsaturated omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids? This is the question Nofima scientist Volha Shapaval is trying to answer. She is using filamentous fungi to ferment food by-products andproduce polyunsaturated fatty acids.

“The technology can be used also to produce substances such as microbial proteins, polysaccharides and bioplastics, using filamentous fungi, yeast and bacteria.”

During the fermentation filamentous fungi consume food by-products, which become in this way a new high-value product. Vibrational spectroscopy is used to monitor the fermentation, to see what types of fat are produced, and to find the best fungal producer. The aim is to map which types of fungi do what, and what the different types of rest raw material are suitable for.

Further development is mainly concentrated into two projects:

– Interest (led by Nofima, financed by the Research Council of Norway (BIONÆR/BIOTEK2021) in collaboration with Norilia AS and UiT The Arctic University of Norway)

– SingleCellOil (led by NutraQ AS, financed by the Research Council of Norway (BIONÆR) in collaboration with Bama AS, AgroPlas AS, Norilia AS and King Oscar AS). Nofima is collaborating with the Norwegian University of Life Sciences, Department of Mathematical Sciences and Technology in solving the research challenges of the SingleCellOil project.

Solid growth

Enzymatic hydrolysis of by-products from animal and marine industries is a young and growing field. The areas of application for the protein products are large, from animal feed to products for human consumption (such as additives, health foods and protein powder), and cosmetics.

Several companies in Europe produce protein-based products from animal by-products. Companies in Norway are producing protein hydrolysates from by-products from the marine industry, and a considerable amount of research is being carried out to improve the use of by-products from animals.

A broad perspective of rest raw materials

In order to build up a sustainable industry based on the better use of food by-products and new products from them, however, what is needed is not simply optimal isolated processes, but a comprehensive approach.

We need to find answers to:

– What is best for the environment?

– What is profitable for the industry?

– What types of product will consumers accept?

– How can the isolated processes be connected such that all rest raw materials are used?

For this reason, scientists at Nofima are working with other institutes to approach a solution to this challenge, the very nature of which is highly multidisciplinary.

Raw materials and process optimisation  

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