From Sweet to Valuable
Carbohydrate-rich crops are nowadays efficiently processed to extract valuable food ingredients. An example is sugar beet from which saccharose is extracted. The agriculture and processing of sugar beet is relevant for the Dutch agro-economy. However, innovations are needed so that every part of the sugar beet can be processed into new, preferably high value products and in the same time transforming the sector towards a circular agriculture. The sugar beet agricultural and processing side streams are a rich resource of polysaccharides which can be converted into ingredients for the food, bioplastics and energy industries. The aim of the “Sweet to Valuable” project is to create a platform via which different sugar side streams of sugar beet processing are used to generate high value plant products such as flavours and insect repellents via microbial fermentation.
Bacterium Rhodobacter has excellent potential for this since it is already used to produce high-value flavour terpenes on a commercial scale and it is has the unique property that it can utilize several sugars simultaneously. We will develop a refinery processes to obtain fractions containing fermentative sugars and will enhance the potential of the microbial host Rhodobacter to more efficiently take-up and assimilate several sugar sources simultaneously. The sugars are subsequently converted by the bacterium to high value plant compounds by introduction of plant biosynthetic pathways. End goal is to upgrade the value of the plant side products from the sugar beet industry and equip the microbial host Rhodobacter to utilize complex feedstocks for a more cost-efficient production of high value compounds. We will apply this process to produce new products for the flavour and fragrance and crop protection markets.
This project addresses the priority 44 Key technologies, MMIP ST2 Biotechnology and breeding. The project develops and implements key technologies to identify and improve processes in the microbe that contribute to efficient uptake and assimilation of complex sugar mixtures from plant refinery side streams so that it can optimally produce high value plant compounds.
The project will generate a generic platform which can, once developed, be used to provide solutions for particularly Mission A ‐ Circular agriculture, in particular to Mission A3: Reuse of organic side and residual flows. Additionally, our project contributes to Mission D ‐ Valued, healthy and safe food. Among the ambitions of this theme we address in particular Mission D4: Durable and safe processing through using micro‐organisms for processing of side and residual flows.
In this project we use the knowledge on the plant metabolic pathways present at WPR to channel the use of plant feedstocks to production of high‐value plant compounds. This project will make producing plant compounds via white biotechnology much more cost effective opening‐up a much wider range of applications. At the moment, the reliable and sufficient availability of compounds from natural plant resources is often an issue that prevents their wider application. Improving the cost‐efficiency of the fermentation by using underutilised side streams makes it possible to not only target plant compounds with very high value like flavours, but in the long run also apply the approach to other classes of molecules, such as UV scavengers, natural colorants and in particular insect repellents (natural crop protectants). A flavour and an insect repellent will be produced as demonstration cases towards the end of the project. Thus the outlet for the knowledge of plants (biosynthesis and how plants deal with stress) will be tremendously increased and we can envision that plant natural compounds for the use in food industry, cosmetics, crop protection and human health will in the future be increasingly produced in microbes while in the same time valorising side streams towards a circular economy.
The results of the project include:
- Utilisation of sugar beet side-streams for the production of high-value compounds via fermentation
- Adaptation of microbial cell-factories to complex sugar streams
- Demonstration of production of high value plant products for the flavour and fragrance and crop protection markets
- Evaluation of business opportunities
Meetings of the project will be organised regularly every 4 months to ensure efficient exchange of information and materials among project partners. The outcome of the work will be summarised in yearly reports.