Additional menu

Cecilia Wittbjer of Parabel describes the beneficial characteristics of the water lentil as a source of functional ingredients and plant protein. Water lentils are relative newcomers to the plant protein ingredients world. The Latin name of this crop is Lemnaceae and it is also commonly called duckweed. They have small floating leaves growing on top of still water all around the world and are now being cultivated in large open hydroponic ponds. The crop needs sunshine and a warm climate to grow in an optimal way but it is a fairly sturdy plant that can survive for long periods at the bottom of lakes in colder climates, surfacing again when the sun comes out. An interesting attribute of this crop is that the plant doubles its mass in 24 hours, which means a daily harvest and a yield many times higher than other crops. Another advantage of this plant is its nutritional profile – especially the high concentration of protein. It has a complete and balanced amino acid profile and contains many other important macro‐ and micro‐nutrients. Cultivation of water lentils Parabel, a company based in Florida, USA, has been growing water lentils for seven years in various locations around the world to show the crop's potential as a solution to food security and sustainability. The company ran growth trials in South America, East Africa and in Asia for at least one year at each location to validate the technology in different parts of the world. The results showed that it is a very scalable crop, capable of growing in many locations and supplying vast amounts of plant protein to the food industry. The water lentil species are locally sourced in each location to make sure that they grow well under the specific climatic conditions and that there is no disruption to the local ecosystem. The plants are grown with minimal quantities of mineral nutrients and there is no need for pesticides. Currently, Parabel is undertaking a growth trial to evaluate whether the crop can be grown at close to optimal yields even under harsh climates such as in the desert. This trial will assess the ability of the crop to provide food security for countries that struggle to produce their own food and are having to import food and feed at high cost to themselves and the environment. This has become an even more pressing issue during the COVID‐19 pandemic, since supply chains have been strained. The company is also in the later stages of constructing the second commercial production facility in Florida, USA. It has been manufacturing and supplying the US food industry with protein ingredients for over 3 years from its first farm and the second facility will expand its capability to meet demand from the food industry for novel plant protein ingredients. The new facility will commence operation in 2020, producing 3,000 tons of protein ingredients per annum. LENTEIN® is the brand name for Parabel's line of products extracted from the water lentils. This represents a range of protein ingredients from whole food protein to protein concentrates and isolates. The concentrate contains 65% protein and has foaming, emulsion capabilities and high water solubility. The isolate containing 85% crude protein has more functional properties and can, for example, be used as an egg‐white replacer.