Proteinleg: designing the bright future of pulses
Did you know that pulses could be the answer to many of the food and environmental challenges we face? These affordable plants have been an essential part of the human diet for thousands of years, but their nutritional value and their ability to restore the richness of soils are not sufficiently recognised. In the midst of an intensive agriculture based only on a couple of cereals, we need them more than ever. And the Proteinleg initiative is poised to propel them into the future.
Opting for traditional and wild vegetables
Proteinleg is a Spanish multidisciplinary initiative that has brought together groups of experts from several autonomous regions. The objective? To develop new sources of plant protein-rich foods to feed people and livestock in a healthy and sustainable way. The project culminated in March with outstanding results.
In the first instance, the research team selected for each legume the varieties best adapted to each soil, without neglecting yield. And why opt for them? Let’s take a look:
- They require very little fertilizer due to their nitrogen-fixing capacity.
- They increase production in rotational crops.
- They decrease land degradation.
- They are a fundamental part of the Mediterranean diet: they have a low glycaemic index, a good antioxidant profile and a high capacity for water retention and fat absorption.
The selection took into account 175 varieties, both traditional and wild. There were peas, beans and lupin, from the seed bank of the Biological Mission of Galicia (MBG). For its cultivation, optimised and sustainable production and processing methods were used, prioritising local agriculture.
Fish-flavoured peas and sustainable animal feed
Once the best varieties had been selected for each plot and their sustainability studied, the next step was to analyse their possible uses.
One of the legumes that stood out for its nutritional value and physicochemical characteristics was the pea, from which a texturized protein was developed and used to create a prototype of the food of the future that is being researched. This prototype is a food with a texture similar to fish and a taste very similar to tuna, which is nutritionally very interesting due to its high protein and omega-3 content.
At the tastings and samplings, it was very clear that its introduction into the market is viable. In addition, it allows for interesting industrial scaling.
In the case of animal feed, the advances were also revealing: the research achieved a feed with analytical characteristics similar to those of commercial feed and with more affordable prices. This is an important fact, but it should also be taken into account that this alternative would alleviate pressure on natural resources and would bring us closer to a more sustainable livestock farming system that is less dependent on soybean imports.
The Proteinleg project is led by the Fundación Empresa Universidad Gallega (FEUGA) with the participation of the Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (CSIC), through the Biological Mission of Galicia (MBG); the Centro Tecnolóxico da Carne (CTC), Almacenes Gamallo, Semillas Ramiro Arnedo and MIMIC SeaFood. It is also co-financed by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) and the Spanish Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAPA).
Click here to learn about the initiative in depth.