The ERA-NET SusFood2 project BIOCARB-4-FOOD aims, in close collaboration with industry, at novel, environmentally friendly and efficient extraction techniques (ultrasound, microwave, enzymes and their combinations), combined with the exploitation of the remaining biomass, rich in bioactive compounds, to sequentially obtain novel carbohydrate-based extracts and fibers (nanocellulose) from seaweeds and seagrasses. Characterization of structure, technological properties, toxicity and bioactivity of the fractions and a life cycle assessment (LCA) will also be conducted for proving the sustainability of the procedures.
The project is expected to contribute to improved process efficiency, development of ingredients with high added value from already commercialized seaweed species and from under-exploited sources (seagrasses) which can positively impact in the competitiveness of seaweed, food and non-food companies at EU scale by a better valorization of raw materials.
Carbohydrates are the most important source of food energy. As well, carbohydrates are key ingredients for food formulations, serving as thickeners, stabilizers and gelling agents or providing functional attributes. Seaweeds and seagrasses are a valuable and under-exploited source of carbohydrates, in particular cell wall polysaccharides (phycocolloids), and bioactive compounds such as polyphenols or carotenoids. Current industrial procedures used by European companies for carbohydrate extraction from seaweeds are highly inefficient in terms of processing time, water and energy requirements. Furthermore, the remaining biomass (generally much more than 50% of the initial material) is used as compost or simply disposed as organic waste.