Research project

Application of enzymatic biotechnologies to develop innovative food products from agri-food chain by-products/waste

Related toSpoke 02

Principal investigators
Simonetta Caira

Other partecipantsL. Quintieri, L. Monaci, F. Gai
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Task involved

Task 2.2.3.

Microbial and enzymatic biotechnologies to obtain new products/novel foods/added-value compounds from food by-products and food waste with high shelf-life, digestibility, nutritional value, low anti- nutritional factors and undesired microorganisms and compounds (in connection with Spokes 3 and 4).

Project deliverables


Collection of microbial cultures and enzymes (M18).


Innovative applications for at least one novel food product with enhanced shelf-life/digestibility/nutritional value(M36).


Report on the efficacy and sustainability of developed biotechnologies (M36).

State of the art

Innovative and sustainable strategies to recover bioactive ingredients from food chain waste and develop new high-value food ingredients/products are based on enzymatic hydrolysis by natural enzymes of plant or microbial origin.  
Food by-products, such as legumes or those deriving from the dairy sector, are rich in bioactive compounds such as proteins, amino acids and peptides, starches, dietary fibers, and fats. Applying natural enzymes increases the bioaccessibility of nutraceutical compounds and reduces antinutritional factors and allergenicity potential. The derived hydrolysates result in added-value products that can be used as functional supplements or food ingredients in formulating innovative products.
Microbial enzymes (fungal chitinases) can also be used to improve the digestibility and bioavailability of protein fractions for human consumption derived from the bioconversion of waste by edible insects that have recently been promoted as a source of protein with a high nutritional value.

Operation plan

The research activities will consider three subjects:

  1. Development of enzymatic processes for the production of added value hydrolysates.
    Different natural enzymes and sustainable enzymatic processes conditions will be applied to legume by-products and different types of whey, such as sprayed sweet whey and acid whey, obtained from the cheese-making process, to produce added-value hydrolysates, bioactive peptides, and antioxidant polyphenols (CNR).
  2. Characterization of hydrolysates and assessment of biological activities. 
    The hydrolysates obtained from the enzymatic treatment of whey will be characterized by a peptidomics approach. In addition, newly formed bioactive peptides (opioid, anti-ACE, antimicrobial, immunomodulatory, antithrombotic, and mineral ligands) will be identified and monitored (CNR).
    The protein/peptide profile of the final legume hydrolysate will be characterized. The biological activities (antimicrobial/antibiofilm, antioxidant) and the assessment of residual allergenicity will be assessed by in-vitro and in silico analyses. In addition, the compounds endowed with biological activity will be identified (CNR).
  3. Improvement of the digestibility of insect protein fractions for human nutrition purposes.
    Food by-products (cereal or fruit/vegetable) will be used to feed edible insects to select the most suitable ones for bioconversion. At the same time, the most suitable fungal strains able to produce chitinase will be screened and selected to set up the growing protocols. The use of selected fungal strains on different by-products will be optimized, and finally, the protein digestibility of insect-treated batches will be evaluated by in vitro trials (CNR).

Expected results

  • Chemical characterization of peptides in hydrolyzed legume by-products.
  • Production of high nutritional added-value ingredients or preservatives from legume by-products.
  • Enzymatic hydrolytic methodology to obtain hydrolysates of serum protein from the whey.
  • Monitoring and chemical identification of bioactive peptides.
  • Use of hydrolyzed whey proteins as functional dairy products and/or food supplements to formulate innovative food products. 
  • Production of insect bio-converted food by-products material with improved nutritional value and protein digestibility to be used for the preparation of pasta and baker products. 
  • Collection of chitinase-producing fungal strains.