Human and planetary health are key objectives of our interdisciplinary work at RHUL. Plant based foods rich in health promoting phytochemicals, such as carotenoids, have been linked to reducing certain cancers, cardiovascular disease, age-related macular degeneration, and vitamin A deficiency (Fraser and Bramley, 2004; Giuliano, 2017). In part, these properties have been linked to the potent antioxidant properties of these colourful molecules. Our intensive research activities in this area means significant non-GM plant material is produced as by-products, making it the ideal feedstock for extracting carotenoid compounds efficiently and economically.
NATCOM runs parallel to our research activities utilising plant derived waste material from the glasshouses. Traditionally, this material would be transported and incinerated increasing the CO2 emissions and incurring costs. Instead, NATCOM has generated a pipeline that ensures waste to be converted into commercial products with improved environmental credentials compared to other comparators in the marketplace.
The first step in our processing is to homogenise the plant-based material, vacuum pack suspensions, and freeze. This allows the material to be stored without degradation. Following large-scale extraction, carotenoids are chromatographed and enriched over complementary systems until high purity is reached (≤95%). The solvents used in this process are recycled wherever possible.
Academic and industrial collaborations welcome.