When we eat a Cashew nut, we are not aware of that this ‘nut’ is actually just a small part of the Cashew fruit. We might buy coconut water, but what had actually happened to the green coconut, if only the water is bottled? Where did the rest of the fish end up, if only the fillet is consumed? And are there other yet un-tapped sources of protein in some further crops?

There are many more examples of crops and in particular fruits which are not yet used for human food consumption, or products processed where only part of it goes into food. The rest is a by-product or side-stream, or a yet under-used food potential. That´s a shame, having in mind that the human population is growing to approx. 9.5 billion in 2050, and the sustainable development goals (UN SDG) require food production to become more efficient to lessen overuse of natural resources.

This challenge affects food production in particular, and it calls for an improvement of technologies and a ‘greening’ and circularisation of systems. A sustainable food system needs diverse and innovative use of natural resources in an efficient, ideally circular and waste-free manner, with consumers willing to co-create or collaborate and accept dietary transitions to facilitate success in such innovation.

The Danish Agency for Science and Higher Education funds the International Network Programme project ‘Waste-to-value ideas for a sustainable food system: from product to market’ at the Department of Management, which consists of a close collaboration of MAPP Centre and AU FOOD researchers under the umbrella of iFOOD (Interdisciplinary Centre for Innovative Food Research), to work with Embrapa - Agroindústria de Alimentos (the federal food and agriculture research) in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

The topic of focus is approaches that contribute to a sustainable, circular bio-economy by employing waste-to-value ideas to the food chain – in particular using by-products and alternative proteins (mainly plant-based)  – resulting in high quality, consumer-targeted and accepted foods that contribute to scaling up sustainable dietary transition in global food demand.

Denmark is a country with an efficient and export-oriented agricultural sector hosting leading and innovative, globally oriented companies in the food, ingredients and life science area. Brazil is an emerging country with a fast-growing population and an increasing consumer demand for greater food quality, as well as an export-oriented agricultural country with a diverse natural resource base. Brazil also constitutes a gateway to the South American market.

In 2019, the team from MAPP and AU FOOD (Jessica Aschemann-Witzel and Marija Banovic, and Marianne Hammershøj and Ulla Kidmose) visited Brazil for a workshop and site visits. They discussed joint manuscripts, empirical studies, and project applications with the colleagues from Embrapa and researchers from various Universities from the state of Rio. Marianne and Marija also participated in the Brazilian Food Science conference SLACA. Tina Gottlieb from Innovation Centre Denmark, Sao Paulo, also participated in the workshop and presented the funding options to the Brazilian-Danish team.

In 2021, it was planned that the Embrapa researchers Rosires Deliza, Caroline Mellinger and Amauri Rosenthal will visit AU in return. During the visit, it was planned to conduct a joint seminar between MAPP, AU FOOD, as well as inviting other faculties involved in iFOOD, the DCA – ‘Danish Centre For Food And Agriculture’, and CBIO - ‘Centre for Circular Bioeconomy’, as well as relevant companies, allowing to explore potential collaborations with further AU entities. This activity has been converted to local, smaller workshops and retreats and a joint final virtual workshop between Embrapa and AU.

Researchwise, the consumer researchers in the Brazilian-Danish team have conducted a consumer survey in Brazil in 2020 about the perception of more sustainable aquaculture. Jessica Aschemann-Witzel together with Isadora Do Carmo Stangherlin has conducted a systematic literature review on consumer research on perception and behaviour towards upcycled, waste-to-value ingredients and food products. A group of Embrapa and AU researchers have published an article on ‘Sustainable use of tropical fruits? Challenges and opportunities of applying the waste-to-value concept to international value chains’.