Turning rice waste into protein

By Annie Harrison-Dunn

- Last updated on GMT

Researchers get 'milk powder' style protein out of rice
Researchers get 'milk powder' style protein out of rice

Related tags Nutrition

The EU-funded project BIORICE has discovered how to turn starch production waste into protein supplements.

The researchers from the Fraunhofer Institute for Environmental, Safety and Energy Technology UMSICHT in Germany said previously manufacturers would extract starch from rice for use as an ingredient in gluten-free or allergen-free baby food products.

This not only wasted the rest of the raw material but was also a costly process for the company.

Instead the researchers said the proteins could be broken down into smaller pieces, peptides, and cleaned for use in cosmetics or nutritional supplements. The end results looks something like milk powder. 

One of the researchers behind the project, Dr Jürgen Grän-Heedfeld, commented: “We have taken a by-product that generated additional expenses and converted it into a valuable commodity that can be used in foodstuffs and cosmetics. For this material, that is something new and unique.”

The researchers were working to market the finished product with an unnamed Swiss-Italian SME but further tests on tolerability and efficacy were needed.

The teams says the peptides are completely new as nothing else currently on the market is derived from the same raw material.

How does it work? 

First the proteins are split into fragments called peptides. Then these peptides are sorted according to size using various membranes as 'filters'. Four different membranes with different pore diameters produces four different sized peptides. 

"The advantage of this method is that it employs only physical separation methods without the use of any chemicals, so the end product is completely pure,"​ the researchers said.

Next the four separate solutions are freeze and spray dried.

The researchers have achieved quantities of 100 to 200 grams of the peptides in the laboratory. 

The project 

The multidisciplinary BIORICE project brings together seven partners across three member states: the University of Bologna in Italy, Italian rice starch producer Amideria Il Cervo, ​Swiss ingredient tech firm Principium, Franco-Italian testing company Farcoderm, Italian R&D consultants Carminia, French research firm Sterlab and the Fraunhofer Institute. The project began in 2013. 

Its website says: "The nutraceutical, functional food and cosmetic EU and worldwide markets are rapidly evolving sectors always in need to develop new classes of products. One of the most important market trends is the use of new bio-based ingredients obtained by environment-friendly extraction processes and testing methods. Of particular importance is the re-cycling and valorization of agro-food industry by-products as feedstocks for the isolation of bioactive molecules."

Italy is the largest producer of rice in Europe. Yet globally it does not make the top ten producers and is overshadowed by the likes of China, India, Indonesia and Vietnam, according to 2012 Food and Agriculture (FAO) figures. 

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