Water lentils as new sustainable protein crop – Setting up a production chain from new crop to market
The Protein Transition, in which we want to shift the ratio of animal/ plant based proteins in our diet to 40/60, asks for new and sustainable plant protein sources. The plant-based food industry is dedicated to provide sustainable food alternatives with a high nutritional quality. Water lentils (also known as duckweed) is one of the fasted growing plants on earth, is propagated and multiplied by vegetative growth, has a nutritional composition alike many other vegetables and is versatile in its application as food. Therefore water lentils is seen as a new generation of sustainable vegetable with high potency for applications as vegetable but also as protein source. The duckweed plant family consist of five genera and 38 species. A Novel Food application from WUR for two water lentil species is pending and is expected to be approved end of 2021. Two other water lentils species, already consumed in several East-Asian countries as vegetable, have recently been approved by the European Food Safety Authority as traditional food and are considered safe for human consumption in Europe when cultivated in a hygienic way. These approvals will open the way for water lentils to enter the food market as new plant (protein) source. Now it is the time to build the full chain from sustainable, safe, hygienic production system to fresh, frozen, ready-to-eat products and protein concentrates for an even wider range of applications ready to sell via the retail. The project will address the many open research questions within all these required steps and will study consumer perception and acceptance to support a successful launch of water lentils.