“Nothing is lost, nothing is created, everything is transformed.” The famous maxim attributed to Lavoisier seems to have inspired Sédunoise’s start-up ProSeed. This young company, which was born in 2021, is in fact relying on a circular approach to producing a new protein ingredient, recovering spent grain from breweries, a residue that until then was often thrown away. Every year, in Switzerland alone, more than 80,000 tonnes of this co-product (see box) of barley malt are wasted, despite being a resource naturally rich in protein, fiber and low in carbohydrates. “The idea came about during a discussion with the owner of a brewery in Renens (VD) that was next to the school where we did our Masters in Innovation and Product and Service Development (Innokick), explains Aurélien Ducrey, one of the three co-founders of ProSeed. So we decided to make it the subject of our thesis.
The trio managed to perfect a secret technical process that makes it possible to transform, in the space of a day, spent grains into a concentrate in the form of protein powder. It is a sustainable, local and nutritionally interesting vegetable ingredient, as it is rich in proteins and whose production requires little energy. “To produce this powder, we want to cooperate with local partners, mainly in Valais”, says Aurélien Ducrey.
Financial and environmental benefits
But is it really that innovative? “The awareness of the revaluation of plant by-products is recent, replies the entrepreneur Valais, who works with a brewery in Sédune. In beer production, we are therefore pioneers on an industrial scale. Several initiatives were launched with the objective of adding value to the spent grain of the brewery, such as the manufacture of cookies or bread, but these products have been considered mediocre by consumers because this residue has a lot of fiber, which affects the flavor and texture. of the final product products. This is no longer the case for our process. In fact, our protein-rich powder of high nutritional quality is much more valued for being used for human food than transformed into biogas or animal feed.”
With ProSeed, everyone wins, including the environment. “From an ecological point of view, we know that we will need more food to meet the increase in the world population”, he observes. As plant proteins represent an essential food source, the use of co-products such as ours will be of capital value, as they will make it possible to obtain protein sources without the need for cultivated land, an asset for a country like Switzerland. , whose agricultural area is already very limited.”
Soon a protein bread
Currently, ProSeed is still in the research and development phase. Your ingredient is evaluated thanks to the assistance of two partners: a supplier of ingredients for bakeries and a chain of bakeries in Valais. Until November, a bread rich in protein resulting from this collaboration will be offered by this brand. Afterwards, cookies, protein bars and snacks should complete the offer proposed by the trio.
And in the long run? Projects jostle in the minds of Aurélien Ducrey and his two associates. “Given that there is currently no industrial production of vegetable protein concentrate in Switzerland, we want to invest in this market, and then replicate our business model in Europe, to become world leaders in sustainable ingredients in the professional market. Our subcontracting manufacturing process can, in fact, be transferred to many other co-products, such as apple and grape pomace or residues from the manufacture of vegetable milks. These new sources of vegetable protein could be used in the manufacture of food alternatives to meat. If the three partners are successful, they will certainly toast with a good beer, just to remember their beginnings!