Duckweed – Water lentils. We’ve all seen it. It’s everywhere. Tiny, bright green, aquatic plants that many people mistake for algae but there are not a lot of similarities.
As the world’s smallest flowering plant, and highly nutritious, the Water lentil has survived by becoming the world’s most effcient photosynthetic engine. It can attain its extraordinary growth rates, literally doubling in under two days – with only partial sunlight — consuming, in the process, astonishing amounts of carbon dioxide and emitting precious oxygen. It’s a hardy plant surviving cold temperatures by dropping to the bottom of the lakes only to surface when the weather permits.
It’s not new to us. The plant has been eaten by animals and humans alike for centuries. Restaurants in certain parts of Asia serve it in salads for added protein and fiber but recently Parabel, a company based in Florida, has been working on the commercialization of the plant into the general food industry. Parabel, received the innovations award last year at IFT for LENTEIN protein and suddenly found itself in the midst of a ‘perfect storm’ where formulators all over the world were looking for novel plant protein sources, free from food allergens that could supply commercial amounts to an agreeable price.
Parabel, has set up the world’s first commercial growing and processing system in Florida, producing plant protein extracted from the water lentil. In the last few years the system has been perfected and resulted in a yield per ha higher than GM Soy and constant product output. The crop is harvested every day and will result in 1000 tons of protein being produced the first year rapidly growing from 5000 to 15000 tons in the following years. This is a modular system that can be put up anywhere with the right climate, sunlight, water and flat land.
This article is available in full in the Special SSW 2016 issue of Nutraceuticals Now
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