Gavan Technologies, Ltd., has developed a novel, waste-free protein extraction method that completes the sustainability loop through the sustainability practice of upcycling. The foodtech start-up supports the circular economy by positioning total plant extraction at the core of its operations.
“Our new, multistep technological platform enables us to take any plant source, isolate and extricate multiple proteins and other valuable components until the source is fully consumed,” enthuses Itai Cohen, CEO and co-founder of Gavan. “No part of the plant is left out. Moreover, the proteins maintain their original form—there is no resulting modification to their physical structure. All of the source’s nutritional and functional qualities are fully preserved.”
Gavan’s proprietary modification platform harnesses the versatility of each plant component’s unique functional characteristics to produce: natural colors, protein isolates, flavor enhancers, gluten substitutes, and other useful compounds. The process requires zero-to-minimal heat, allowing for up to a tenfold reduction in energy consumption.
“Over the last decade, food industry players have been consciously shifting their industrial processes to more sustainable standards,” notes Cohen. “They have actively been striving to align their operations to meet the European Commission’s Green Deal call for greater resource efficiency in response to consumers’ efforts to adopt more sustainable lifestyles. Consumers want to know how their food is manufactured, where the ingredients come from, and what is the environmental footprint of the products they are buying.”
“Innovation within alt protein production focuses predominantly on finding more exotic sources of protein and processing them into innovative, palate-friendly alternatives to animal proteins. Many of the methods used, however, fail to glean the full value of the plant source in terms of functional components and holistic goodness,” explains Cohen. “They end up wasting valuable raw material.”
Many methods employed in protein extraction involve multiphase chemical processes, leading to intrinsic losses in both yield and quality at each step. Up to 80% of the plant source can be wasted, or relegated to compost or animal feed. In some cases, the company has to allocate funds to remove the waste.
The side stream products generated often become too diluted to use, or too reduced in quality, to be truly beneficial. Further energy-intensive separation and drying methods make such methods even more costly and less environmentally sound.
“The problem is not the source nor the product; the problem is within the process,” continues Cohen. “We developed advanced methods for protein extraction from inception, and that by design are regenerative. We can exploit all of a plant’s components and explore their functional potential in endless food applications, without imparting any sensory shortcomings. Being sustainable and circular is integral to our business model.”
The Proof is in the Pilot
In a lentil pilot trial, extraction of a high-profile, 92% protein isolate yielded additional value components including complex carbohydrates, fiber, minerals, and fat. These were converted into a nutritious, neutral-flavored, non-gluten flour. The company also produced a high-functioning, protein-rich emulsifier suitable as an egg white replacer with aquafaba-like abilities. The company assures that the same process can be applied to any plant protein source, from soybeans, chickpeas, lentils, algae, and others.
Gavan also successfully derived multiple products from spirulina, including a protein-dense, vibrant blue colorant. “Spirulina is made up of 70% high-value protein and hosts a naturally rich content of chlorophyll and the bright blue pigment protein complex phycocyanin,” explains Yael Leader, head of product for Gavan. “After extracting the phycocyanin blue colorant, the remaining mass yielded a range of clean-label, protein-based flavor enhancers; a brown colorant offering a better-for-you alternative to the commonly used caramel colorants; residual carbohydrates; and a lipid fraction rich in essential fatty acids and carotenoids.”
While still under development, Cohen projects Gavan’s extracted products to begin a gradual market rollout in 2023. “Our technology signifies a paradigm change, demonstrating how focusing on sustainable and circular production enables higher efficiencies and presents a better economic model,” he declares. “This, for Gavan, defines a true, positive ecological—and economical—impact and makes sustainability profitable.”