Blog by Anne Maria, Teknologisk Institut

Sustainable food production requires action through the whole value chain – from field to fork

Danish Technological Institute (DTI) are in progress with concrete steps to find solutions to the global food challenge, which is to feed a growing world population without any environmental impact on the earth caused by increased consumption of energy and water and loss of biodiversity through more cultivated land. Production of food can not only be extended in the form we know today.

It is a global challenge to utilize the crops more effectively by harvesting more biomass per area without any impact on the environment in general – and by reducing waste in all steps from processing to consumer.

The world will soon be short of proteins, especially if the world’s meat consumption continues to rise due to Asian countries’ growing middle classes and the expected demand for more meat. New sources of protein can come from insects, algae and new crops and from better utilization of residues and waste throughout the value chain.

Projects with mealworms and algae as new sources of protein

Insects are a source of animal protein of the same high quality as proteins from fishmeal. DTI has taken many initiatives to get insects on the agenda in Denmark and has just been granted 19 million DKK for an Innovation Fund Project: Insect Value Chain in a Circular Bioeconomy“inVALUABLE”, starting 1st of January 2017. The objective of the project is to support Danish Agriculture and Industry to be in front with sustainable industrial production of insects to feed and food. In recent years, protein from insects have been recognized as a viable and environmentally friendly supplement to traditional sources of protein for feed and food. The project inVALUABLE will focus on the production of mealworms, which among other things can convert residues from bakeries and breweries to high-end proteins. When mealworms have been prepared, they will taste like strong chicken soup.

To grow more crops in the oceans and exploit algae and seaweed as food and feed is another example of new protein sources. In 2016, DTI started the project, Biorefining of Macro Algae to high value products, MAB4, where the goal is to establish industrial cultivation of 1-2 macroalgae (brown algae) in Denmark (4 hectares) and extracting algae high-value products including proteins. Breeding and cultivation will be conducted in Danish and Faroese waters with special attention to seasonal development of algae bioactive substances and their conservation during harvesting and storage.

Replacing the proteins of traditional and familiar dishes

If proteins from insects, algae, seaweed, and legumes should be able to replace meat in our diet, products that can be part of familiar dishes must be developed. Food is very tradition bound and should preferably taste and smell as usual. The goal is not necessarily to eliminate good meat dishes, but reducing meat for several meals and thereby reduce total meat consumption. All the dishes which include meatloaf and minced meat will be easier to replace with alternative raw materials than roast pork and steak. DTI are also in progress with new projects in this field to develop meat analogs that fits the consumer’s perception of mouthfeel and texture.

How much meat will we eat in the future?

Climate-conscious consumers prefer alternative protein sources, vegetables and many spices. It is often young people who also find meat expensive. There will still be a majority who prefer traditional food which includes meat. But I think “the daily meals” will change much over the next 10 years.

To sum up-  at DTI we will continue to take actions in collaborations with other partners as for instance with Danish Food Cluster and implement new technology and help companies transform into more bio-based business – and find solutions to the global food challenge.

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About the author

Blog by Anne Maria Hansen
Innovation Director, Technological Institute


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