Students turn waste into protein
January 6, 2024 – A group of Wageningen students won the Rethink Waste international student challenge with their idea for making high-quality protein powder out of waste streams. Four of them are now starting a company – Afterlife – to put their concept into practice.
The idea the students worked out is based on fermentation: a fungus converts agricultural and food industry waste into a protein-rich raw material for food products. Potato peel and beet pulp, for instance, are full of cellulose, starch, and other sugars. Fungi can easily grow on those fibrous waste products. It really is a great way of transforming waste from a social problem to a source of human food. In the Netherlands alone, the sugar industry is left with a million tons of sugar beet pulp every year. A small proportion of this becomes livestock feed, but most of it is processed into biogas.
Besides the prize money of 6000 euros for further development of the idea, the team was also the general public’s favourite and won a money prize from challenge partner Fuji Oil, which develops plant-based ingredients for the food industry. In October, Afterlife also won the 4 TU Impact Challenge run by the four big Dutch technological universities. With their prize money, the team will soon be off to the lab for their first experiments.
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