Bühler and DIL join forces to accelerate sustainable food production

Working together to develop and promote innovative solutions.

Bühler and the DIL Deutsches Institut for Lebensmitteltechnik, a research institute focusing on food technology and food science, have teamed up to develop new production technologies for healthy and sustainable food products, with a focus on alternative protein-based products with a lower environmental impact than the CO2-heavy meat value chain.

By 2050, to meet the needs of the world’s growing population, the world has to produce more food from 35% less agricultural land. With an additional 250 million metric tonnes of protein required per year, the pressure on alternatives to animal-based proteins is poised to mount. Given the environmental impact of the current system, there is growing consensus that the food industry has to change course quickly.

While the change is underway in many parts of the food value, but to drive it faster, partnerships are essential. Announcing a new partnership between Bühler and DIL, Ian Robets, CTO for Bühler, said: “If we are to feed 10 bullion people in 2050 and if we are to be able to do this and mitigate the climate change increase that we currently see, we need to build strong partnerships with purpose and we need to build those in areas where we can drive major impact.”

The partnership to accelerate research and development of new solutions for more sustainable protein production comes at a critical time, according to Volker Heinz, director and CEO of DIL, who elaborated: “Within our planetary boundaries, there is no room for a further expansion of animal protein and fat production.”

New sustainable plant-based proteins are said to have “significantly less environmental impact, less land use, and a lower CO2 footprint than the animal meat value chain”. It is therefore essential to explore and identify alternative and underused sources of protein, and develop technologies to convert these into marketable products. Consumer demand for sustainable and healthy food products has been growing in recent years, underlining the opportunity for the food industry to make a positive impact.

A key technology to unlock this opportunity is extrusion. It enables the formulation of texturised proteins with different structures from different raw materials. High moisture extrusion enables the conversion of plant proteins into food products with textures similar to meat.

Volker Lammers, head of research platform process engineering at DIL, explained: “With Bühler’s expertise in extrusion, but also in other engineering disciplines, such as milling, plant proteins, and powder handling, we will be able to provide new and customised solutions for our clients and for the rapidly changing market.”

The DIL campus in Quakenbrück, Germany, provides food safety labs, pilot plants and research capabilities. Over 200 scientists and technologists from diverse fields of expertise collaborate with a growing number of spin-off and start-up enterprises to develop solutions that improve food safety and quality.

“We continuously try to achieve a better understanding of the structure and functionality of foods, which we consider is the key to innovative solutions for food processing,” Heinz concluded. “On this track, we are excited to have Bühler as a partner on our side. Together we will explore the many possibilities of technological interventions to get our food system on the track towards a sustainable future.”