Scalable method for extraction of proteins from insect material sought
It is known that many factors affect the extractability of proteins, including the origin, status and history of the insect source. This way, some standardisation of insect supply was needed prior to protein extraction. Furthermore, it is important to recover as much protein as possible during extraction in order to maximize yield. Last months, the PROteINSECT consortium tested the feasibility of different procedures to ascertain the most appropriate scalable method for extraction of proteins from insect material. Most accessible possibilities for processing proteins from insects were already identified the beginning of the project from a theoretical point of view and were derived from partner expertise within the consortium, partner contacts as well as extended literature and patent surveys. All available and relevant processing technologies were mapped and analysed for their potential by means of a SWOT analysis and were grouped as physical insect disruption technologies, chemical extraction technologies and enzymatic/fermentative (biotechnological) conversion technologies. Most promising technologies were retained and these were evaluated in small lab-scale experiments. The aim was to derive some generic approaches which can be used for different types of insect biomasses during and beyond the project. During these small lab-scale processing trials, besides maximising protein yield, sub-samples were always analysed of nutritional quality and safety. Hence a quality and safety driven extraction was performed. Finally, based on the outcomes, generic Standard Operation Procedures (SOPs) were derived for each type of technology as input for pilot scale studies. In the pilot trials at the next stage, the defined lab-scale SOPs will be further optimised for protein content. Best up-scalable outcomes will be retained and effectively produced for the animal trials with pigs, poultry and fish. Finally the obtained pilot scale solutions will be evaluated in terms of economics and energy consumption, and corresponding data will be provided for an Environmental, Social and Economic Life Cycle Assessment.
During the processing work, it became clear that drying of insect fractions makes the whole process less favourable from a cost effectiveness point of view. This way, it is certainly advised to take a closer look to the drying processes available today, and to estimate their value for insect drying. In this respect, the PROteINSECT consortium decided to organise an Engineering Competitions, inviting all EU parties dealing with drying technologies, to find suitable solutions for this problem.