Innovation That Matters

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Extracting a plentiful protein from green leaves 

Food & Drink

The protein is similar in nutritional value to that of beef protein

Spotted: Analysis of the global animal protein market predicts continued growth throughout 2024, albeit slightly slower than in previous years, and points to the need for companies to improve their productivity in order to adapt to long-term structural changes in the marketplace. One method of improving agricultural productivity is for farmers to grow their own animal feed.  

New Zealand foodtech company Leaft Foods is helping growers do this by producing a plentiful, natural protein from plants. Called Rubisco, the protein is a complete amino acid that is very similar to beef protein, making it an ideal replacement and supplement to both human and animal diets. All green leaves contain Rubisco, which suggests there is significant opportunity for its production.

For farmers, dedicating 20 per cent of their arable land to crops such as alfalfa could provide a range of benefits. Alfalfa enriches the soil with nitrogen, helping reduce the need for chemical fertilisers. The Leaft Foods system then extracts the protein from the plants and turns it into a food-safe powder for human and animal consumption. And the crops that aren’t used for Leaft protein production are already valuable feedstock for animals.

Once the protein has been extracted, it can be used as a supplement in many different forms. The powder dissolves and has no flavour, making it easy to combine with other nutrients and minerals as well as include in complete foodstuffs.

Tests by the Leaft Foods team indicate that production of Rubisco protein results in 10 times less carbon emissions per hectare than that of conventionally produced dairy protein. That then suggests that growers have an avenue for reducing their farms’ emissions while improving soil health and without the need to reduce the numbers of animals they work with.

Springwise’s library contains a number of innovations helping to make agriculture more sustainable, with projects including local wildlife sanctuaries on marginal land and solar-powered trackers making it easier to monitor grazing herds.  

Written By: Keely Khoury



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