GFI study spotlights upcycling soy for sustainable food solutions

GFI study spotlights upcycling soy for sustainable food solutions

USA- A groundbreaking report from the Good Food Institute (GFI) underscores the crucial role of upcycling agricultural waste to address global food challenges, particularly in feeding the expanding world population. 

The study, conducted by GFI, focused on analyzing the byproducts from the top eight high-volume crops in the United States, Canada, and Mexico, assessing their potential applications in plant-based protein ingredients and production inputs for fermentation and cultivated meat.

Lucas Eastham, MSc, senior fermentation scientist at the GFI, emphasized the significance of repurposing agricultural and processing side streams to create a circular bioeconomy. 

The valorization or the upcycling of agricultural and processing side streams presents an opportunity for us to shape the circular bioeconomy, and this will help us reduce waste and increase food production,” Eastham stated.

Among the promising plant protein concentrate side streams identified by the GFI, soy meal emerged as a top candidate. 

Despite being traditionally used in animal feed, the substantial volume of soy grown in North America and the established popularity of soy protein concentrates in plant-based products make upcycling soy meal a compelling option. 

Canola meal also received high marks due to the high digestibility of canola protein, with Royal DSM already implementing applications in various alternatives to meat, fish, and dairy.

Other side streams with potential for plant protein include tomato pomace, rice bran, and spent brewer’s grain. Evergrain, a subsidiary of AB InBev, sees significant opportunities in spent brewer’s grain for developing ingredients in dairy alternatives, sports nutrition, and protein powder categories. 

If you could capture the volume of that protein, you could double the volume of plant protein isolates in the industry. So, this can be a tremendously important source (of protein) in the plant-based world,” Greg Belt, CEO of Evergrain, stated, highlighting the potential impact.

In addition to its role in plant-based protein, GFI identified soy meal as the leading side stream for cultivated meat media. Soy meal’s robust amino acid profile is essential for cell growth, addressing cost and supply challenges in the production of cultivated meat. 

Alongside soy meal, corn-dried distiller’s grains, corn gluten meal, and canola meal also show promise for cellular media.

For fermentation applications, focusing on lignocellulosic sugar carbon sources, the report highlighted corn stover as the most viable side stream due to its mature supply chain, infrastructure, and technology developed in cellulosic ethanol manufacturing. 

Soy straw, rice hulls, and sugarcane trash also scored well in GFI’s criteria, presenting opportunities to reduce environmental impacts and enhance the sustainability of fermentation processes.

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