PALO ALTO, CALIF. — A byproduct of vegetable oil extraction, defatted sunflower seeds may be upcycled into a functional, nutritious flour. Food ingredient start-up Planetarians is partnering with the Barilla Group, Parma, Italy, to explore bakery applications for this previously wasted ingredient, which has three times the protein and twice the fiber of wheat flour, according to the company.
Planetarians announced earlier in March it closed a $750,000 seed funding round with participation from Barilla Group’s BLU1877 venture capital arm.
“Planetarians’ technology creates value for food processors who produce byproducts and for food companies who can use our ingredients to develop nutritious and sustainable products for consumers,” said Aleh Manchuliantsau, founder and chief executive officer of Planetarians. “Our technology allows food processors to sell byproducts that can now be transformed into a high-protein, high-fiber flour at a premium price, a powerful incentive to repurpose byproducts that would have otherwise been wasted or used as feed.”
The company plans to use the funding to continue trials with customers and develop additional product applications, including snacks, pasta, bakery and meat applications, noodles, breakfast products, dips and purees. Last year, the company marketed snack chips made with defatted sunflower seeds on Amazon.com, generating $37,000 in sales over a three-month period.
“Five years ago, we were a small team of food scientists, and sourcing new ingredients for our formulations we stumbled on sunflower defatted seeds — a byproduct of vegetable oil extraction,” Mr. Manchuliantsau said. “What’s caught our attention — it had 35% protein but was fed to animals. But isn’t it ridiculous to feed animals more protein than we get back from beef?”
Planetarians was selected as one of 15 start-ups to participate in FoodBytes! by Rabobank, a pitch competition and networking platform for innovative food, food technology and agriculture technology entrepreneurs. The event takes place March 28 in San Francisco, where Planetarians will showcase pasta and flexitarian meatballs made with defatted sunflower seeds.
“The Bay Area is at the forefront of sustainable food and agriculture innovation, which is why FoodBytes! launched here in 2015 and why we’re excited to host our 15th edition where it all started,” said Nina Meijers, start-up relationship manager for Rabobank’s Food & Agriculture Innovation Team. “The start-ups competing at FoodBytes! SF are pioneering new solutions to real problems in our food system, including reducing food waste by brewing beer using leftover bread, combating plastic waste with cost-comparable plant-based compostable packaging and diversifying protein consumption with ‘clean meat’ and novel alternative proteins. We’re thrilled to connect them to the Rabobank network and support them at FoodBytes! and beyond.”
Participating companies receive the opportunity to pitch and network with food and agriculture executives.
Looking ahead, Planetarians may experiment with other food waste ingredients as part of a broader mission to tackle food insecurity and climate change.
“When you upcycle what’s already grown you don’t need to grow more crops, occupy more land, consume more water,” said Michela Petronio, vice-president of BLU1877. “By repurposing byproducts you can help to fight the climate change. Making protein affordable you fight food insecurity for current and future generations.”