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12/11/2019 – News / Ingredients / Food Processing / Innovation / Sustainability / Planetarians / Seeds&Chips

This ‘upcycled cook-off contest’ aims to crack the recipe for a more sustainable future

Planetariums' secret ingredient: Functional protein flour made from upcycled, defatted sunflower seeds

Ingredient tech company Planetarians says it has found a secret ingredient to help feed the world sustainably. Now, leading innovation summit Seeds&Chips has teamed up with Planetarians to launch a contest along with many other dedicated partners to pave the way towards a sustainable food future.

The joint venture’s mission is to engage people to learn, understand and share the importance of up-cycled ingredients through a cooking contest that brings together home-cooks, startups, food bloggers, schools and individuals who are interested in not only trying out this new ingredient, but also becoming message-bearers of this sustainable movement. 


The ‘secret ingredient’ to sustainability


Planetarians upcycles by-products and solid food waste into high-protein, high-fibre ingredients. The firm’s technology sterilises, destroys anti-nutrients, and functionalises fibre in one step. The company’s ‘secret ingredient’ – functional protein flour made from upcycled, defatted sunflower seeds – boasts three times the protein content and two times the fibre content of standard wheat flour, and at the same cost. 


Planetarians’ process was tested at the University of Minnesota, and scalability tests resulted in investment from manufacturing partner Cereal Docks. Planetarians’ ingredients won AgFunder Innovation Award 2019 and scored investments from Barilla’s venture arm, Blue1877, and Amadori.


“The future of food ingredients”


A strong believer in this sustainability drive is Jenna Chen, Marketing and Communications Manager at Kitchen Town – one of the contests’ partners – who believes that “upcycled ingredients are the future of food ingredients” and that they “can help mend some of the negative impact that industrial agriculture and food production cause.” Equally important, in Chen’s opinion, is the role the contest could have in educating and changing the general view and understanding of ingredients made out of waste. According to Jennifer Wagner-Lahr, Sr. Director of Innovation & Commercialization of the Agricultural Utilization Research Institute (AURI) – another partner – the contest is a “great way to generate interest and build awareness” not only amongst the participants but also amongst businesses. “We work in the areas of food, renewable energy, bio-based products and co-product utilisation – and all are potential avenues to add value to low value feedstocks,” she adds. 


“Agrifood innovation must go mainstream”


The contest was launched back in May at Seeds&Chips – the global food innovation summit held in Milan – and has since then received many applications, projects and visibility. Food Cons’ owner Antonio Iannone believes that “agrifood innovation must go mainstream – in the headlines, not at the end of the newspapers and TV news” and that this contest is a first step towards making that happen. 


The importance of the contest is, in fact, not only in its message and mission. “It incentivises people to be more creative and rethink the flaws of the broken food system with a tangible product.” explains Tamara Masri, Researcher at Hermann’s, one of the contest’s partners. As Russel Straat, Venture Center Leader from partner the university of Minnesota adds, it is especially important to “get more out of what we already have without damaging the environment” and up-cycling by-products into nutritious ingredients for human consumption could help us achieve just that. 


Moreover, the involvement of large manufacturing partners such as Cereal Docks was deemed essential for the contest in order to demonstrate that, as Business Development Manager Giacomo Fanin puts it, “there is a huge opportunity for upcycled ingredients with big market potential – and, if the involvement from stakeholders gets more noticeable, more opportunities will come our way.”  


‘Upcycled cook-off’ contest


The contest itself is very straightforward. Once the applications are submitted, the selected participants receive a free sample of up-cycled defatted sunflower seed flour and have the chance to experiment with developing new recipes and products, and possibly win one of the prizes offered by the partners. These recipes must be posted on social media with the dedicated tags and hashtags, and the winning recipes will be presented at Seeds&Chips, The Global Food Innovation Summit Milan, in May 2020. 


Since the launch of the contest, impressive results and attention have already emerged, and given space to a broader spectrum of change. Connie Bowen, Executive Director at The Yield Lab Institute, sees Planetarians ‘upcycled cook-off’ contest “as a further mechanism to attract new folks to Ag”, and mentions that The Yield Lab Institute, which is driving more effective innovation to the market, is “trying to get more people interested through efforts like AgTech action and Agri Food conversations.”


“Four-way win potential”


Seeds&Chips isn’t the only one supporting and enthusiastically praising Planetarians. Jana Stolz, Thought for Food (TFF)’s Communications and Projects Manager, says that Planetarian's approach, which “aligns with TFF's mission to sustainably feed 10 billion people by 2050”, was impetus enough to initiate the collaboration. General Partner at SCAP Food and Beverage Fund, James Cali, sees “a strong, four-way win potential in the company (Planetarians): health and wellness impact (better nutrition), societal impact (affordable nutrition), planet impact (kinder to planet/ lower intensity of resource via upcycling), and profit impact (which can sustain the business moving forward).”


Today’s cutting-edge = Tomorrow’s commonplace


Peter Bodenheimer, Managing Director at Food-X, is sure that we need “different thinking to solve problems both simple and complex”. “Innovation around ingredients, nutritionally complete foods, and supply chains that are more and more efficient are places to begin,” he suggested, adding that if the job is done well, then what seems cutting-edge and futuristic today will be commonplace tomorrow.


Overall the objective of this contest is to bring together all stakeholders in the industry to collaborate in paving the way to make the first steps towards a world where upcycled ingredients are not uncommon but are rather considered to be the status quo. 


This intricate puzzle of sustainability places co-operation front and centre as crucial to solving it. The more effort is poured into it and the more people who become involved, the greater will be the opportunity to create real change.   

The world’s leading food innovation summit returns to Milan, Italy, from 18–21 May 2020. For further details, visit:

Latest issue – Vol 1/23
– Health & Nutrition focus
– Gulfood 2023 Special
– Next level legume – The rise of the chickpea
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