Peter van Paridon on the innovative products of Grassa

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13 January 2020

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Why do we get soy from abroad as a source of protein for our cattle feed, while our own grass produces twice as much protein? There must be a smarter way of doing this, thinks founder Johan Sanders. His idea is to use a small mobile installation to go from farmer to farmer and to process the grass, but also residual flows of, for example, beets or legumes into a cattle feed product that contains exactly the right amount of proteins and other nutrients for the animal. And thus the seed is sown for Grassa. Kiempunt talks about it with Peter van Paridon, CEO of Grassa.

From mobiles to regional plants

To explore the potential of so-called biorefinery, several research projects are set up, including with the University of Wageningen. After a while it becomes clear that the process works and produces good quality products, but that the mobile installation is too small-scale to be profitable. A fixed installation that ensures regional processing of grass within a radius of 10 to 20 kilometers is a serious option. Van Paridon: "Our demo installation, which we realized at the beginning of 2019, just barely fits on one truck. We can handle 2 tons of grass per hour. We were able to test the process extensively at various locations in the Netherlands, but also in Ireland. There is now an installation in the north of Friesland that can handle 4 tons of grass per hour. We expect that by mid-2020 the process will have been developed to such an extent that we will be able to process 8 tons per hour. When you consider that one hectare of grass yields around 10 to 12 tons of grass, you can see that the scale is starting to become commercially attractive."

The Grassa demo plant at work

Equal milk, less nitrogen

The grass goes through a few simple processes during refining: pressing, heating, filtering and drying. Crushing and pressing separates the juice from the fibers. The fibers can be returned to the farmer's cows as roughage, which still contains about 50% of the proteins. Van Paridon: "Such a percentage is perfect for the digestion of ruminants and provides some 30% less nitrogen emissions while maintaining milk production. This is important, because it means we can offer part of the solution to the nitrogen problem, by providing the perfect composition for each animal species. Certainly for farmers who are located near Natura2000 areas, it could potentially play a role in how many animals they are still allowed to keep."

"With Grassa's roughage there is 30% less nitrogen emission while maintaining milk production."

The protein fraction that remains from the juice is in turn very suitable as chicken or fish feed and even usable as a protein source for humans. The juice is processed into a sugar-rich fraction, a mineral-rich fraction and clean water. The sugar-rich fraction is good for intestinal function and thus suitable as a prebiotic. The mineral-rich fraction can be used as a vegetable organic fertilizer because it is rich in potassium and nitrogen.

Grassa juice and protein fiber

Seeing is believing

There are several options for the farmer. Grassa can purchase grass from the farmer or contract the farmer to grow grass to specifications for Grassa. The latter is ideal, because then the quality can be optimally monitored. The type of grass, the co-sowing of e.g. clover, the fertilization and the timing of it all: Grassa then has control over everything.
Of course, the participating farmer can choose to receive (part of) the yield in the form of fodder. Van Paridon: "After years of research, sampling and demonstrating, there is now serious interest from feed and pet food manufacturers and the agricultural sector. Dairy farmers still have to become more convinced; they sometimes have an attitude of: first see, then believe. That's only logical, because this is new and strange for many. Fortunately, in the coming years we will be able to show and experience many more of the advantages.

The challenge: scaling up

Toughly speaking, there is no fear that there would be insufficient demand. "Our challenge is on the supply side, we need to scale up to the point where we can meet the demand. In the past year we have therefore invested a lot of time in attracting the necessary capital and in process development. For example, LIOF, Brightlands Venture Partners and Franssen Gerrits, an animal feed company, stepped in as investors. The next few years will also be about selecting suitable locations and building the installations." Finding the right locations is not only about good availability of grass and other vegetable residual streams in the area. It also involves looking at the availability of residual heat from other companies , so that the drying process can take place in an energy-efficient way. That is why a climate in which various parties can work together constructively is of great importance: you do not do this alone.

"We need to scale up to the point where we can meet demand."

New discovery: FOS

Grassa recently discovered that part of the sugar-rich fraction is made up of Fructose Oligo Saccharides (FOS). This is a soluble dietary fiber that can improve gut health in foods for humans and (domestic) animals. FOS as a basic product is similar to inulin, a substance found naturally in chicory, for example, that plays a role in digestion and regulates appetite. Inulin is already widely used in pet food and animal feed, but also as a food supplement for people. Van Paridon: "To be clear: we do not want to focus on health effects and we will not develop products for human nutrition ourselves. But at this stage it is good to show with demo projects what is possible with semi-finished products from Grassa. For example, together with Dalco and Proverka we have developed a protein-rich Vegetable Nugget. We only welcome new experiments, whether for cattle feed or human food."

"New experiments we only welcome to show what is possible with Grassa semi-finished products."

Grassa in 2030

It is almost unimaginable that grass has so much potential as a foodstuff. A plant that can grow almost anywhere at lightning speed with minimal attention. Van Paridon therefore dares to dream about a Grassa in 2030. "Then we will have refining units all over Europe and our food products will be widely used. The organic and organic market will have completely switched to Grassa and a significant part of the regular livestock sector. By then, several humane food products have been developed from Grassa raw materials. I'm thinking, for example, of grass cheese that didn't involve a drop of milk."

Do you see opportunities to partner with Grassa? Contact contact them and step into the world where the grass is truly greener, greener than ever before.