Plant proteins can help feed the world

Originally Published in April 2017

NapiFeryn BioTech is a company that has developed a technology for producing protein isolates from oilseeds like rapeseed. It was established in 2014 by Polish scientists and its proprietary technology makes it possible to produce complete proteins from rapeseed for use in alternatives to meat, dairy or soy products. Rapeseed is the most cultivated oil plant in Poland, making the country the fourth largest producer of the crop in the European Union. The company is co-financed with EU funds and its laboratory is in the Bionanopark science and technology park in Łódź.

Two biotechnologists, Magdalena Kozłowska and Piotr Wnukowski, first met in 2013 while working for an international pharmaceutical corporation in the Netherlands. When Kozłowska returned to Poland, they decided to establish a company dealing with vegetable-protein extraction in their native country. The company’s name, NapiFeryn, is a combination of the names of two proteins that are obtained from rapeseed – napin and cruciferin. After a period of intense organization and building a workforce that included talented biotechnology graduates, NapiFeryn received support from the EU Horizon 2020 program, a grant from the Smart Growth operational program, and private investors: venture capital fund Impera Alfa and industry investor Grupa Wilmar Marek Wilczyński S.K.A.

Researchers at NapiFeryn developed the technology for obtaining protein from the material left over after pressing oil from rapeseed. Although these leftovers are already being used in animal feed, the company discovered a way to exploit their full potential. Rapeseed content is about 20 percent protein, and NapiFeryn’s technology makes it possible to retrieve approximately half of that as protein isolates. Using modern technology and safer, more efficient methods, the proteins isolated from rapeseed are not damaged. Their functionality is preserved, which makes them a suitable food ingredient.

Rapeseed is the most cultivated oil plant in Poland, making the country the fourth largest producer of rapeseed in the European Union.

With NapiFeryn’s solution, pastas, sweets, vegan meat alternatives, beverages and bread – among other foods commonly found on local store shelves – can be enriched with rapeseed protein. It could also replace soybean additives in various food products.

Rapeseed cultivation promotes sustainable farming and provides protein more readily than animal products. Numerous studies have shown that animal farming has a negative impact on the environment due to water pollution, soil degradation and continuous use of antibiotics. As the global population continues to increase, NapiFeryn’s technology makes it possible to feed more people without further harming the environment.

The company’s founders expect the protein to be available in four to five years for customers in EU member states like France, Germany and Poland, where rapeseed is grown on a large scale. They aim to license the technology to countries that are global producers of rapeseed and canola, including Canada, China and India. Once rapeseed protein is available in the market, the company will direct its efforts to utilizing other oil-producing plants, such as sunflower.