Skip to main content
SLU publication database (SLUpub)

Research article2021Peer reviewedOpen access

Economic viability of protein concentrate production from green biomass of intermediate crops: A pre-feasibility study

Muneer, Faraz; Persson Hovmalm, Helena; Svensson, Sven-Erik; Newson, William; Johansson, Eva; Prade, Thomas


Green biomass is a major potential source of proteins for food and feed. This pre-feasibility study evaluates the use of green biomass of buckwheat, phacelia, hemp and oilseed radish grown as intermediate crops (IC) as a feedstock for production of protein concentrates to produce protein-rich food and feed products. We investigated the biomass yield, protein concentration and protein recovery potential of non-fertilized IC, nitrogen-fertilized IC and IC intercropped with legumes, harvested in late summer to autumn during 2017 and 2018 in southern Sweden. In addition, economic assessment of potential protein and fibre feed and food products were evaluated. The results showed that IC fertilized with 40 kg ha1 N and intercropping with legumes contributed to a higher biomass dry matter (DM) yield of 4.9e5.8 t ha1 as compared to between 2.2 and 3.1 t ha1 for non-fertilized IC. Intercropping with legumes also resulted in higher protein yield of 154 g kg1 vs. 103 g kg1 for non-fertilized IC. Among IC, hemp, phacelia and oilseed radish showed up to ca. 25% higher DM yield and up to ca. 70% higher protein concentration as compared to buckwheat. Higher DM yield was obtained when IC were harvested in October and November than in August and September. Economic assessment was made on two feasible protein production pathways; (A) Green and white proteins and (B) total recoverable combined protein fraction (CPF). For all IC, cost per t DM was higher in August due to lower biomass yield as compared to other harvesting months. Nitrogen concentration was the main factor determining the size of revenues. Nitrogen concentration was 34% higher in 2018 compared to 2017 and therefore resulted in higher revenues in that year. Intercropping resulted in higher protein content and therefore contributed to lower breakeven prices of recovered green proteins for all IC. Breakeven price analyses showed that green protein and CPF were economically feasible to market as both bulk and premium products depending on lower (2 V kg1 ) or higher (2e10 V kg1 ) price ranges, respectively. The results demonstrate that use of IC biomass could be a feasible option to produce high value protein-rich products, which can contribute extra income from IC for farmers.


Intermediate crops; green biomass; protein extraction; green and white proteins; RuBisCO; economic assessment

Published in

Journal of Cleaner Production
2021, Volume: 294, article number: 126304