“It is important to bundle the research capacities and knowhow on proteins in the Netherlands”

We meet Marco Giuseppin at one of the unique plants of AVEBE, the world’s market leader in starch and starch-specialties. It is a cooperative, with its members in the Netherlands and Germany and factories in the north of the Netherlands, in the north-west of Germany, and in the south of Sweden. Marco Giuseppin: “Of all crops, potatoes produce highest yield in carbohydrates and soluble protein per hectare, and AVEBE strives towards an optimal value per hectare. AVEBE covers the whole chain, including for instance breeding and providing of potato-varieties that have top yield in carbohydrates and proteins, and are optimized for the AVEBE process of industrial processing.”

Protein production from potatoes is definitely within the strategy of AVEBE, despite the fact that the proteins started out as a ‘waste product’ of the starch isolating process. As Marco explains: “The protein production from potatoes is a ‘wet’ process, as the tubers are crushed in their own water. The quality of the proteins is such that it is comparable to milk; the proteins are naturally solubilized and therefore native. This results in functional native proteins that can compete in quality with other highly functional proteins, moreover the protein contains very interesting enzymes such as lipase, which can be used in high end applications.”

Marco is clear in the role that he foresees for the Protein Competence Center (PCC): “It is important to bundle the research capacities and knowhow on proteins in the Netherlands, and to provide insight to the partners into the collective research activities and to make these accessible to Dutch companies. The PCC partner companies will benefit by the generic, e.g., methodologies, and specific advantages in identification of protein properties and applications. This must not and cannot be done alone; the relevant research in Netherlands is not readily assessable to companies. The PCC should be driven by Dutch companies, which are strong in agriculture, whereas the knowledge level and ambition of the PCC knowledge institutes is internationally recognized.”

AVEBE is, as other companies in PCC, interested in the isolation and characterisation of different proteins, especially for high end food and technical applications. Potato proteins are currently applied in high end feed and food applications, but also in technical applications such as the clarification of wines. These proteins are very low allergenic and therefore have obvious health benefits, and are marketed as gluten free, milk free, and egg free. Marco: “We should try to isolate natural products first, and tap into the natural nutritional value of the proteins, such as the excellent digestibility of potato proteins. We can cleverly deconstruct these natural resources along the biorefinery chain, even before starting to modify these products to increase applicability. This yields economically interesting proteins in bulk, plus the many bioactive peptides and proteins from potatoes that are not yet extensively studied. In each of these steps collaboration within PCC is most welcome.”