Novel aquatic plant offers sustainable protein potential
The ingredient is an aquatic plant from the duckweed family, considered to be the smallest vegetable in the world.
A one teaspoon serving provides 2 g of protein as well as vitamins and minerals and, with a light spinach flavour, its major advantage over rival vegetable proteins such as spirulina is its taste.
Vice president of marketing and business development Udi Alroy said: “Our aim is to succeed in producing a mass market, clean, healthy product with active ingredients that [can be] incorporated into a variety of foods."
“The cultivation technique uses algorithms which enable us to control the nutritional content – it could be a high iron vegetable, a high protein vegetable.”
The future of food tech
Highly computerised methods allowed for remote cultivation techniques which could be controlled 24/7, producing year-round yields that were not subject to unpredictable weather conditions and guaranteeing a stable price for growers and consumers.
Production could be done indoors or outdoors, on small, large or industrial scales and could be easily scaled up to meet immediate or long-term demands.
“The plant grows fast, splitting every day… [and] the yield is quite enormous. I would say compared to soy we can triple or quadruple the yield per square metre,” Alroy said.
The production platform was light on manual labour and the company claimed it would be embraced by an ageing agriculture community, struggling to attract younger farmers.
“Farmers are getting older and young people like high-tech so this will encourage new [growers] to embrace [our] precision agriculture,” said Alroy.
Alroy told NutraIngredients that it would first be launched in the US, and a GRAS (generally recognised as safe) application was underway, while the process of securing novel food approval in Europe would begin in the coming months.
Available in fine powder form, the powder would be suitable for use in most foods, including bread and bakery products, rice noodles and pasta as well as sports nutrition products. The nutritional content was preserved with bread and pasta, for instance, due to the relatively short cooking time, Alroy explained.
Because the powder is leaf-based, it is also non-allergenic.
Meanwhile its highly automated growing process rivalled soy for ease, as all parts of the cultivation process - growing, drying and fractionalisation - could be done on one site.
"Soy [on the other hand] has to be grown, cultivated, processed – a lot of energy [is used] soon after harvesting. These limitations do not exist with our product.”
But Alroy stressed that Hinoman would not be competing directly with soy as a protein source with its new product since future supply shortages for protein would guarantee a place on the market for all vegetable sources.
Hinoman CEO Ron Salpeter said: “We hope our high-tech technology can contribute not just to reducing global malnutrition challenges, but also toward how people will eat healthy, sustainable food in the future."
Global protein consumption – currently at 473 million metric tonnes - is set to hit the 943 m mark by 2054, according to Lux Research and Frost and Sullivan.
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