A new UK project is harvesting broccoli stems, stalks, and leaves that would otherwise be thrown away and upcycling them into an alternative protein ingredient for food and beverage makers. In the UK alone, more than 600,000 tonnes of broccoli plant mass are currently wasted.

Upcycled Plant Power (UPP) is developing AI harvest automation technology, and it is working to harvest this wasted biomass for the development of proteins and ingredients for food makers. The new SusProt Project, which will run until the end of December 2024 and will also evaluate the potential to extend to other unused crops, is targeting 80% of currently unharvested broccoli crop biomass.

UPP has received funding from DEFRA and UKRI’s Transforming Food Production Challenge. James Hutton Institute, which brings expertise in crop valorisation, phytochemistry, food and nutrition, and the Agri-EPI Centre, which will provide a life cycle analysis to measure exactly how environmentally and economically sustainable the project is at each stage of its development, are also part of this new veg-tech initiative. 

David Whitewood, UPP CEO and founder told FoodNavigator, “The harvesting is the key to unlocking the crop side-stream, which is bulky, so we upcycle pre-farmgate… UPP’s smart machinery enables broccoli farmers to harvest more of the plant than they feasibly could using traditional human labour because the AI-plus-tractor-tool combo does it all: spotting, cutting, lifting and carrying, at a rate of up to 3km/h, harvesting the whole broccoli plant.”

We know that all plants have proteins, so the ultimate answer to the question many vegans get of “Where do you get your protein from?” is “from plants, where all amino acids originate”. However, perhaps some vegans, in the not-too-distant future, may be more specific in their answer, and say “from broccoli.”

“Originally from Catalonia, but resident in the UK for several decades, Jordi is a vegan zoologist and author, who has been involved in different aspects of animal protection for many years. In addition to scientific research, he has worked mostly as an undercover investigator, animal welfare consultant, and animal protection campaigner. He has been an ethical vegan since 2002, and in 2020 he secured the legal protection of all ethical vegans in Great Britain from discrimination in a landmark employment tribunal case that was discussed all over the world. He is also the author of the book, ‘Ethical Vegan: a personal and political journey to change the world’.