The Rhobust processing platform extracts highly functional proteins from the side-stream of processing materials such as grain, wheat and corn. "The Rhobust platform offers companies significant new revenue opportunities in the protein food ingredients industry," said Allan Lihme, technical director at Upfront Chromatography. It was first put into action at the start of this month when Solanic, a division of Dutch potato starch specialist Avebe, officially opened its new factory in the Netherlands for the production of vegetable-based fractions as an alternative to animal proteins. Now Upfront wants to reach new customers. Lihme said: "Our technology has already been proven to be suitable across a wide range of industries and we are currently looking at numerous applications in crop processing such as wheat, pea, corn, oats and other cereals." Upfront considers the technology could make for tie-ups with the biofuel technology. Whereas by-products of the raw materials used for biofuels often either get wasted or used as animal feed, this processing platform can upgrade the from low-prices feed to higher priced sources for the food industry. The technology was developed by Upfront and commissioned by Solanic. Its installation uses Upfront's proprietary mixed mode ligand chemistry to enable isolation of functional proteins without using traditional heat coagulation methods. The Solanic plant has the capacity to produce 10,000 tonnes of protein per year. Upfront said it offers technical and regulatory support to its customers and has worked with Solanic to ensure a smooth transfer of knowledge. The two companies do have an exclusivity deal, but could not release exact details of the parametres. However, Upfront CEO Anders Weber said the Solanic has developed new aspects of the technology intself for its high volume production. Weber told FoodNavigator.com: "We are free to provide the Rhobust processing platform to other players and are not restricted in the technology that we offer." Upfront said that the functional proteins isolated using this process have a wide range of functionalities in comparison to high grade proteins such as egg and milk proteins. During construction of Solanic's factory, it had spent much of the year spreading the word about the benefits of the proteins, especially when pitted against the properties of animal proteins. In May it hosted The First International Vegetable versus Animal Protein Debate in Amsterdam, which was attended by academics and industry members invited by the company. The consensus amongst the scientists was that it does not matter so much whether protein is sourced from animals or vegetables as whether it is of sufficiently good quality and has the functional characteristics that enable it to be used in food applications. When it comes to protein quality, there are a number of pertinent questions. These include the amino acid content, the digestibility of the amino acids, whether there are any anti-nutritional factors at play, and how the protein can help fortify amino acid patterns in weaker proteins.