For a sustainable citrus supply chain
They serve as fragrant fertilizer, basis for vegan meat substitutes and even raw material for sustainable fashion: the peels and fruit fibers left over from pressing orange juice. They are already being recycled – but not by default. The “ImPUlSe” project, led by the University Duisburg-Essen (UDE, Germany), wants to change that and also aims to render the entire suppy chain for citrus fruits in the Mediterranean region more sustainable. A total of € 1.3 million in funding will be provided*, € 530,000 from the Federal Ministry of Education and Research will go to the UDE. Kick-off is on September 9.
“Innovation in the by-product supply chain of citrus in the Mediterranean area”, or ImPUlSe for short, is coordinated by the Centre for Logistics and Traffic (ZLV) at the UDE. From planting the seeds on the plantations to transporting them to the local supermarkets and recycling the peels and fibers – the international team wants to analyze and improve the processes by following the “triple bottom line” approach: All changes should be sustainable on an ecological, economic and social level.
The four pilot projects are located in Algeria, Egypt, Tunisia and Turkey. Besides the UDE as coordinator, research institutions and companies from all countries are involved, as well as a research partner from France: “Different disciplines are working hand in hand here. Thus, we will not only improve existing products, but also develop new supply chains for citrus by-products and open up new markets for producers from the Mediterranean region. Eventually, we will publish our results on an online platform and make them available to everyone, especially consumers”, explains spokesperson Dr. Ani Melkonyan-Gottschalk, executive director of the ZLV.
This innovation platform is expected to encourage exchange between all participants – even beyond the duration of ImPUlSe. It is also a basis for researchers to assess the sustainability of the changes they have initiated. “We are developing an evaluation system that simulates different scenarios to facilitate work for decision-makers in agriculture, food processing, trade and politics”, says Melkonyan-Gottschalk.
In the long term, the interdisciplinary project aims to use and reuse resources more efficiently, develop digital solutions and establish more effective market mechanisms. As a result, the employment rate and quality of life in the Mediterranean region are expected to increase.
*EU funding within “Partnership for Research and Innovation in the Mediterranean Area” (PRIMA).
Consortium invests €10 million to realize sustainable ambitions of PeelPioneers
Dutch scale-up PeelPioneers is building Europe’s largest peel processing factory in Den Bosch, the Netherlands. Supermarkets, restaurants and hotels that offer freshly-squeezed orange juice to their customers now have an effective, sustainable way to dispose of their growing pile of peels. Supported by a strong consortium of investors, the new plant triples the company’s processing capacity to 120,000 thousand kilos of peels per day. PeelPioneers plans to expand into Europe with five new peel processing plants in the next five years.
The new factory builds on the strong trend in many European countries of consumers that increasingly appreciate freshly squeezed orange juice. In addition to scaling up production, the plant in Den Bosch will enable PeelPioneers to extract even more value from peels. In the factory’s laboratory, PeelPioneers’ scientists are developing new citrus peel products, such as dietary fibers that offer strength and structure to meat substitutes bakery products, and sauces and ensure the right mouth sensation. With this, PeelPioneers wants to contribute to the protein transition.
Proprietary pioneering technology
PeelPioneers’ proprietary pioneering technology provides a one hundred percent circular solution for these peels that in most countries end up getting destroyed in an incinerator. The company extracts orange oil and other much-wanted raw materials that food manufacturers use in products such as beer, lemonade, muffins and chocolate. The raw materials that PeelPioneers derives from orange peels are also sold to manufacturers of non-food products such as detergents and cosmetics.
Sytze van Stempvoort, co-founder of PeelPioneers: “With the growing demand for freshly squeezed juice, the number of peels is also growing. We make food from food. In this process, the entire incoming stream is retained in the food chain. With the new factory in Den Bosch, we will soon be able to save even more peels from the incinerator. We are scaling up to one hundred and twenty thousand kilos of peels a day: an Olympic swimming pool full”.
Strong investment consortium
PeelPioneers is actively supported by a strong investment consortium consisting of Rabobank, the Netherlands Ministry of Economic Affairs (Top Sector Energy Grant), het Nationale Groenfonds, Brabantse Ontwikkelings Maatschappij, European Circular Bioeconomy Fund, and initial investor DOEN Participaties.
PeelPioneers is also exploring an European rollout, to take away the ever-growing pile of peels from supermarkets, hotels, and restaurants in target countries where the stream of orange peels is growing, while offering them a one hundred percent circular solution.
Bas van Wieringen, co-founder of PeelPioneers: “PeelPioneers is the largest producer of raw materials from citrus peels in Northwest Europe. In this way, we are responding to the growing need of our North-West European customers for a local supply chain. Thanks to the local
production of high-quality food ingredients, they are no longer dependent on seasonal oranges or transport from outside Europe. In this way, we contribute to the reduction of CO2 emissions”.