SP.20.015 – Mild processing of local biomass for better digestibility

Route: Sustainable production of safe and healthy food

Cluster question: 015 How can we make agricultural production systems more sustainable as the worldwide demand for healthy, safe food continues to grow?

The Netherlands imports large amounts of animal feed and use a large land area to produce a part of the feed required for cattle, pigs and poultry. The first practice leads to misbalances in the material cycles and the second in monocultures and loss of biodiversity. Local biomass streams that are now used for low value applications should be upgraded to feed. The project ‘Mild processing for digestibility’ aims at improving the digestibility of local sources for feed. The goal of this project is to develop ways to plant sources using minimal processing. Examples are current local sources, such as grass and straw, and side streams from agriculture, such as leaves, stems and pods. Potential industrial partners participating in this project will be asked to provide their source of preference. ‘Minimal processing’ is understood to be processing in which heat, mechanical, or biocatalytic treatment is such that native matrix of carbohydrates, lignins, and proteins is disturbed, without causing too many side reactions. The major benefit is the digestibility for feed applications. An example is breaking the lignocellulosic complex of indigestible nature grass using hot steam to make it digestible for ruminants. As a side benefit, a reduction in anti-nutritional factors may be expected. The scientific base required to fulfil the aim, is the understanding of the interactions of molecules in plants and plant side streams with their native matrix and the components in this matrix that are released together after treatment. The effect of heating, mechanical treatment, enzymatic treatment and/or microbial treatment will be variables of interest to obtain this control and understanding. This understanding of the interaction between components and matrix compounds in the original matrix will allow the development of mild processing steps as a (pre) treatment for improved bioavailability of e.g. proteins and carbohydrates in feed.


feed, grass, pre-treatment


Organisation WUR
Name Dr. ir. J. W. (Johan) van Groenestijn
E-mail johan.vangroenestijn@wur.nl