That grass is for cows, and not for people is how we think about it now. But that will change if it is up to Ad van Crommentuijn of the startup Grassa! from Venlo. After all, what not many people know is that grass is full of proteins, according to Crommentuijn it is therefore perfectly suitable as a meat or vegetable substitute. “By separating the protein from the grass, you have a nutritious and sustainable alternative. This will be the food of the future.”
They separate this at Grassa! by biorefinery; with their own developed machine they bruise and squeeze the grass. From this pulp emerges juice and fibres. In the next step, they extract the proteins from this pulp. Crommentuijn explains enthusiastically what the advantages are: “The raw juice contains proteins, sugars and minerals. We can separate this up to the mineral level. You can let it come back in all kinds of applications. Unprocessed and thickened, the juice is perfectly suitable for feeding pigs. But we can also make a protein concentrate from it. Or extracting the phosphate from the juice, which can be used as an addition to pet food, for example. And the mineral concentrate from the juice is a natural alternative to fertiliser.” Crommentuijn does not stop talking, he claims that Grassa! is the only company that extracts FOS (Fructose Oligo Saccharides) from the grass. These are fibres that positively influence the intestinal function.
Grassa! Doesn’t throw away a sprit of grass, all substances are used. Now many useful ingredients are wasted. Crommentuijn: “The Netherlands is full of grassland, especially for feeding cows. But much of the protein contained in the grass is not absorbed by the cows. It enters the air, soil and groundwater as nitrogen and ammonia via the manure. Through biorefinery, we can, therefore, contribute to the manure problem in a positive way.” That is how it works: cows eat the fibres from the pressed pulp, which contains less protein. As a result, less ammonia and nitrogen ends up in the manure. “The great thing is that the cows still get enough protein to supply good milk and that the juice – which the cows don’t get – is used for other things.”
Such as feeding chickens or pigs. Currently, these animals are fed a diet that includes soy products imported from all over the world. Crommentuijn: ” Soybean crops do not contribute to a better environment. Forests disappear, the ground is exhausted and transport takes place in large sea containers that are very climate-damaging. By switching to biorefinery, fewer boats of soya will come this way. In fact, there is enough grassland in Europe to meet our protein needs.”
Crommentuijn believes that these proteins are also nutritious for people. “Within ten years, everyone will eat burgers made from grass. But it doesn’t stop there, because many of the vegetable grower’s residual flows are now disappearing in the bin. This can be done differently: “There are still sufficient usable nutrients in residual flows from, for example, bean growers. That is a shame to throw away.” In order to process crops other than grass, the company is adapting the current machine. Crommentuijn: “Each crop requires a different method, but it is still possible to extract the usable substances. That’s how Grassa! Together with a couple of partners, Grassa! made nuggets from vegetable residues. “In this way, we try to reduce waste as much as possible.”