Protein Plant with a Future – the Lupine
The year 2010 – with no particular fanfare in the media, employees of the Fraunhofer Institute found Prolupin GmbH. It starts a success story that, thanks to great innovation and strong partners, was awarded the 2014 German Zukunftspreis (Future Prize). And always close at the scientist's side – Flottweg, in Vilsbiburg. Because only the latest in separation technology solutions can make the processing of lupines possible at an industrial scale.
The Story So Far...
The idea of using lupines to manufacture new ingredients for industrial food production came about over ten years ago. Since that time, scientists at the Fraunhofer Institute for Process Technology and Packaging have researched a process for their industrial manufacture. The greatest challenge for the scientists was to develop a process that could be used to separate the component materials of lupine seeds fully from one another. Until now, despite their many advantages, lupines were not interesting for the end consumer market because bitter materials made them unpleasant to eat. Thanks to the new process, unpleasant odor and taste substances can be identified and removed.
What are Lupines?
Lupines, also called wolf beans, constitute several species of plants in the legume family. Lupine seeds contain high-quality protein, which can be used to replace imported soy either in animal fodder or in human foods. Due to their particularly high-quality protein and a fat percentage of just a few percent, they are a particularly high-quality foodstuff. They also have a high content in essential amino acids. A further great advantage of lupines is that the plant can be grown outstandingly well in Germany, and its nitrogen-fixing roots even lead to a natural improvement in the soil. The lupine is thus the perfect plant for sustainable, resource-friendly agriculture.
How are Lupines Processed? – The Process
To ensure the sustainable economic success of lupine fractionation, the target yield for all fractions of the seed is over 90%. But how can "sensorily neutral" proteins be obtained from lupines?
First, the grains are shelled and rolled for form extremely thin flakes. Oil is then extracted from the flakes using supercritical CO2. At a pressure of over 74 bar and temperatures greater than 31 degrees Celsius, CO2 takes on liquid-like properties. The majority of the oils and their accompanying materials dissolve in it. The de-oiled flakes are then mashed in a stirring tanks, then taken to a Flottweg Decanter. The decanter separates the fiber from the proteins. The liquid phase contains bitter compounds, carbohydrates, sugar, and other soluble flavoring materials. The liquid phase is currently not used, and is therefore discarded in the waste water.
The solid phase, however, is pumped into another thank. There, its pH value is increased to render the proteins soluble. From there, the mash is put into another Flottweg Decanter. The centrifuge separates insoluble fibers from the solid phase out of the mixture. These are later used in the animal fodder industry.
The clear phase is place into a final tank and acidified. Since the remaining dry substance is only a small volume, the proteins can be separated outstandingly well using a Flottweg Sedicanter®.
Great Tasks for a Small Machine
To process particularly soft sediments such as lupine protein, Flottweg produces a special decanter centrifuge. Soft or fluid solids are poorly suited for a standard decanter. Only the patented Flottweg Sedicanter® can get optimum results with this type of processing. Where a standard decanter achieves a maximum centrifugal acceleration of 6000 g, the Sedicanter®, at 10,000 g, breaks through to values that have heretofore only been possible with disk stack centrifuges.
"We decided on the Flottweg Sedicanter® because it combines the advantages of a disk stack centrifuges with those of a decanter. Thanks to its high speed, this machine gets outstanding separation results while simultaneously processing large quantities of solids. That gives Flottweg a clear distinguishing feature in the market," says Marc Zillmann, Head of Production and Product Development at Prolupin GmbH, justifying the purchase decision. "Flottweg also offers fast, affordable, competent customer service, who are at our side with support whenever we need it," continues Zillmann.
With its adjustable impeller, the Flottweg Sedicanter® can reacts to fluctuating feed volumes, guaranteeing optimum separation resolution. And due to its hygienic design and CIP capability, it's nearly predestined for a role in the food industry.
The processing of lupines is a challenge for people and machines alike. Until a few years ago, it was impossible to use the lupine plant efficiently for the production of food. In particular the separation of bitter materials and fiber at industrial scale represented a great challenge. With the great spirit of innovation of Prolupin GmbH and the latest separation technology from Flottweg, it is now possible to use lupines economically as a food additive. For 2016, a new product line will appear under the umbrella brand "Made with LUVE" (LUpine + VEgan). Among other things, there will be lupine ice cream, a lupine beverage to add to muesli and coffee, a lupine yogurt alternative, lupine desserts, dressings, and even a mayonnaise. These tasty products will be enthusiastically received not only by vegans and vegetarians, but will also represents a healthy, high-fiber alternative for many other people.