The global demand for protein is projected to double by 2030, and increasing European protein dependency on imported protein has triggered an urgent need for new production systems and value chains for alternative proteins for food and feed. Agricultural cultivation of grass and legumes are highly efficient and competitive protein production systems, reaching up to 2-3 ton protein/ha/yr, while having significant positive ecological and environmental traits as a sustainable agricultural crop, with low pesticide use, efficient nutrient uptake and high capacity for soil carbon sequestration. A green biorefinery separating fresh green biomass into a fibrous pulp and a press-juice, from where soluble protein can be precipitated and recovered as protein concentrate, are investigated, developed and optimised with a dedicated goal of making a commercially viable production system for local protein production based on green biomasses.
The research includes several biomass processing technologies, such as mechanical maceration, solid/liquid separation, pretreatment, enzymatic hydrolysis, fermentation, protein precipitation, liquid/liquid separation, and drying.
At AU ENG Green Biorefining, we are studying and developing processes in lab scale (g to kg), pilot-scale (kg-ton) and demonstration scale (ton). We have developed and operated a pilot plant with an approximate capacity of 1 ton fresh material input per hour since 2015 and in will from summer 2019 operate an improved and upscaled demonstration platform with an input capacity of 10-20 ton/hour. The products from the green biorefining are leaf protein concentrate with applications in animal feed for monogastrics and plant based protein food, fibre pulp with applications in in animal feed for ruminants and lignocellulosic feedstock for biochemicals, biobased materials and bioenergy, and last a residual juice with applications for biochemical, bioenergy and recycling of nutrient fertilizer. Feedstocks are produced on the AU agricultural research facilities in Foulum, and include many different varieties of forage -grasses and –legumes, and the products are tested together with AU Department of Animal Science and AU Department of Food.