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APG Director Sees First-Hand the European Quest to Improve Pulse Flavour and Nutrition (PCN Summer 2015) JUL 2 2015 | Consumers and Producers | Pulse Crop News

This article appeared in the Summer 2015 issue of Pulse Crop News.

Don Shepert, APG Director for Zone 5

A tour of European companies researching flavour and anti-nutritional properties of pulses like the ones he grows near St. Paul was eye-opening for an Alberta Pulse Growers Director.

“People really wanted to know what we had to offer and wanted to share what they had to offer,” said APG Zone 5 Director Don Shepert. “I believe the most important concept I’ve learned as a producer on this tour is that there are many people who have a passion for pulses researching flavours, nutrition and processing in order to take pulses to the next level of consumption by the people of this world.”

Shepert joined representatives from Pulse Canada, Agriculture and AgriFood Canada, Canadian International Grains Institute (CIGI) and Saskatchewan Pulse Growers in Switzerland in March to meet with members of the Pulse Partnership Task Force. The Task Force is a group of engaged processing and industry members who provide strategic direction to the pulse industry on marketing, regulatory, research and processing initiatives to drive commercialization of pulses in processed food applications. This industry sounding board has been meeting for over a year mainly in the United States, but this time the event was hosted by global food processing equipment manufacturer, Buhler, at its headquarters in Uzwil, Switzerland.

“One of the best parts was having time to interact with the Pulse Canada people and really finding out what’s clicking and where things are going,” Shepert said. “Some of the things being done by European researchers in fractionation and other areas are pretty impressive. The main purpose of the trip was to get moving on what’s next, and what’s next is the flavour, anti-nutritional and milling research.”

Shepert’s tour included seeing the Fraunhofer Institute in Germany and Buhler in Switzerland, as well as the French National Institute for Agricultural Research (INRA) and pea processors, Cosucra in Belgium and Roquette in France.

“I think the amount of agricultural and industry research being done in Europe is the biggest takeaway,” Shepert commented. “They are much more aggressive on their research because of the number of people around them. Everybody’s got a big budget for research while we’re still focused on agronomy for the most part and grow lots.”

Located in Germany, Fraunhofer is Europe’s largest organization for applied research. Its research efforts are broad and geared toward health, security, communication, energy and the environment. The Fraunhofer institutes are grouped into seven working alliances devoted to broad research areas. One of the research areas is food production, which focuses on functional ingredients, food processes and sensory and packaging needs.

Fraunhofer-Gessellschaft currently maintains 66 institutes and research units with 24,000 staff and a two billion Euro research budget from governments and contract work. Fraunhofer’s research strategy is focused on the optimization of value from a stream of products through the total use of all fractions.

A company called Prolupin spun off from Fraunhofer to produce delicious foods, such as ice cream, lupine milk, pudding, yogurt and curd. These products are made from lupine proteins that are able to offer the taste of milk products to those who are lactose intolerant or allergic to milk.

Shepert raved about the ice cream created from 2.5 per cent lupin protein in place of dairy: “The texture and flavour are great. We were very impressed.”

A delegation from the Fraunhofer Institute met with the University of Alberta in Edmonton in February to discuss opportunities and strategies for research collaboration. The meeting included sharing information about Prolupin and having discussions about the potential for research with faba beans as a functional ingredient in food applications.

Fraunhofer also has a research project in partnership with Buhler exploring the bitter off-flavour of plant protein isolates.

As a result of the European research he saw into what may cause the off-flavour of pulses, Shepert may be making a few changes on his St. Brides area farm after he harvests this year’s peas.

Shepert said NIZO, a Netherlands based food research organization, spoke about their projects at the Buhler meeting and it was interesting to see the different angles that were being looked at to find out what influences off-flavour in pulses. These angles include preventing off-flavours by using breeding, looking at interaction of enzymes, and optimizing storage conditions. They are also looking at removing off-flavours through hydrothermal treatment, solvent extraction and fermentation, as well as masking of flavours.

“They want to start at the grain bin at harvest, and explore the difference in taste after peas are stored for 10 months,” he said. “I will be more aware of my storage habits and really careful about how peas are stored.”

“Something that I didn’t know before the tour is that peas are full of folic acid which is particularly good for pregnant women, but it’s not readily available,” Shepert noted. “NIZO is looking at how to make folic acid more readily available through fractionation.”

Shepert added: “It was awe-inspiring to be present among many critical thinkers who are leading the dialogue and taking steps to elevate pulses to a new level of nutritional and processing understanding. I was pleased to find a genuine interest in looking for opportunities to collaborate on future projects.”