Beware of the Lupin

Maybe you already know this little yellow bean: it’s the lupin! In Italy we use usually eat it as a snack, crunching it while walking down the street and although its characteristic and property are known since ancient Greece, only recently the lupines are coming back on the international scene and on our tables, mainly for two reasons:

  1. First, for its the nutritional and functional characteristic: the lupine presents a low caloric intake, a low fat and starch, and a significant content of protein (about 35% as dry matter) very similar to soy[2]. Furthermore, some study showed that for the considerable quantity of fibre, the lupines may help in the reduction of the “bad” cholesterol (LDL), while leaving the HDL cholesterol (the “good one”) unchanged[4].
  2. The second one is its diffusions in every part of the world. The origin of the lupine plant is the Mediterranean area, but today it is widely cultivated in temperate areas of the globe and significant is its presence in Australia (the first world producer) [7], which highlights the versatility and resistance of the lupine plant. Lupin shows a good tolerance to abiotic stress, which permits its cultivation in different agro-climatic condition, from areas that are frequently cold to area suffer from drought and salinization of the soil. It’s also worth pointing out that, like the other Leguminosae, the lupine can improve the soil with nitrogen and other minerals, like phosphor; for such reason, this crop could be ideally used in crops-turnover, especially in areas with high agriculture intensity [5,7]



This revival of the lupine, which can also be used as high-quality animal feed, is mainly due to the rise the demand for vegetable protein for human consumption. So much so, that the European Union had commissioned a project, named Lupicarp,  to specifically evaluate its nutritional, functional, and economic potential.


In this regard, there are already many studies in the literature about lupins, especially regarding their protein profile: if isolated lupins’ proteins present one of higher contents of total proteins, with a biological value of the 91% compared to eggs[3]. The application of lupine protein can be changed at the second of their extraction, we can improve for example the emulsion or the foaming power[2].

Another study demonstrated that the lupine flour, in combination with other vegetable proteins, can cover the total protein intake requirements in the diet[9].


In literature, there are many examples of products that use lupine flour in their formulations, like noodles[6], bread[1], cookies (we created them for a college project and for personal experience a can say that they were very good!).

…and by the way, have you ever seen a flowers lupine plant? It’s beautiful!



[1] Dervas, G., Doxastakis, G., Hadjisavva-Zinoviadi, S., & Triantafillakos, N. (1999). Lupin flour addition to wheat flour doughs and effect on rheological properties. Food Chemistry66(1), 67-73.

[2 ] Duranti, M., Consonni, A., Magni, C., Sessa, F., & Scarafoni, A. (2008). The major proteins of lupin seed: characterisation and molecular properties for use as functional and nutraceutical ingredients. Trends in Food Science & Technology19(12), 624-633.

[3] Egaña, J. I., Uauy, R., Cassorla, X., Barrera, G., & Yañez, E. (1992). Sweet lupin protein quality in young men. The Journal of nutrition122(12), 2341-2347.

[4] Fontanari, G. G., Batistuti, J. P., da Cruz, R. J., Saldiva, P. H. N., & Arêas, J. A. G. (2012). Cholesterol-lowering effect of whole lupin (Lupinus albus) seed and its protein isolate. Food Chemistry132(3), 1521-1526.

[5] Hondelmann, W. (1984). The lupin—ancient and modern crop plant. Theoretical and Applied Genetics68(1-2), 1-9.

[6] Mahmoud, E. A., Nassef, S. L., & Basuny, A. M. (2012). Production of high protein quality noodles using wheat flour fortified with different protein products from lupine. Annals of Agricultural Sciences57(2), 105-112.

[7] Marsh, S. P., Pannell, D. J., & Lindner, R. K. (2000). The impact of agricultural extension on adoption and diffusion of lupins as a new crop in Western Australia. Australian Journal of Experimental Agriculture40(4), 571-583.

[8] Schoeneberger, H., Gross, R., Cremer, H. D., & Elmadfa, I. (1983). The protein quality of lupins (Lupinus mutabilis) alone and in combination with other protein sources. Plant Foods for Human Nutrition32(2), 133-143.

[9] Yáñez, Enrique, D. Ivanović, D. F. Owen, and Digna Ballester. “Chemical and nutritional evaluation of sweet lupines.” Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism 27, no. 6 (1983): 513-520.


Seeds & Chips 2017 – Urban and Vertical Farming

“Feeding the world”. This has been the main slogan of the Seeds & Chips 2017 and will be also the main challenge of the next few years.

By may account food security is still a major issue in many areas of the world: the latest estimate showed that 795 million people in the world – just over one in nine – were undernourished in 2014–16 [1] and the increasing world population, which is expected to rise to more than 6 billion in urban areas by 2050 [2,5] and by the same date the food demand is expected to more than double[3].

The solution to this issue is an entirely disruptive revolution (after the intensive, chemical-fueled one, which we experienced at the beginning of the last century) of the agricultural system that is sustaining the human race for 10.000 years.

Therefore one of the main focus of the Global Innovation Summit has been the Urban or Vertical Farming. In particular, with a dedicated conference: “Feeding the Cities – Urban and Vertical Farming“, which has been one of the main events of the fair.

Bring Farming to the Next Level…and the Next…and the Next…

Vertical farming is not a completely novel idea (the first mention I could find is a book from 1852, especially compelling is the chapter on the use of explosives in cultivation 😲),  the use of terraces to gain yieldable soil in hill or mountain areas is a traditional practice in agriculture. But as the soil is one of the most precious and delicate systems on the Earth, we are getting rid of it.

New solutions combine the vertical element with the principles of Hydroponics, which is been around since the ’30s thanks to the work Of UC Davis prof. Wiliam Garicke, who published in 1940 the book “The complete guide to soilless gardening”.

Some of the asserted advantages over traditional farming are[4]:

  • it produces no agricultural runoff;
  • it allows year round crop production;
  • it uses far less water (70–80%);
  • is not affected by most commonly occurring severe weather events (e.g., floods and droughts;)
  • it can be established anywhere in the world because it does not rely on soil for producing food crops.

So, as said, Vertical Farming was one of the main focus of the Seeds & Chips 2017 summit and a big portion of the floor was dedicated to stands of companies and startup related to this, showcasing all of their different solutions, along with a Vertical Farming Cafe Hub, for talk and presentation on the theme organised and moderated by the Vertical Farm Association, a nonprofit organization that promotes the sustainable growth and development of the vertical farming movement.

Let me describe the most interesting alternatives to traditional farming.

One size Does not fit all.

The Big Players

The first thing that struck me was the diversity of the solutions, in size more than the concept, shown at the summit.


Outstanding was the container in the middle of the Vertical Farming dedicated area.  Big players in the production of industrial greenhouse systems, such as the Italian Lucchini Idromeccanica and the Dutch Certhon, are introducing hydroponic options in their portfolio. These are usually large systems that are designed to be implemented inside of big containers, and, usually, need a high supply of water and energy.

other companies that are very interested in vertical farming are the ones that produce LEDs, which are used to give the plants the necessary lights. Philips and Osram, for example, are sponsoring and collaborating with startups to implement hydroponic systems.

The Startups

In the startup landscape, more manageable solutions have been presented, with a scope that varies from shopping centres and restaurant, which could offer truly fresh veggies, even in urban areas, small systems for private households.

Modularity is the key concept (that and hexagons, which are always cool) for this kind of products:

Robonica, designed an eye-pleasing stackable “Linfa” module, that in their intention could adapt supply anything from a household to a small restaurant, with a broad variety of vegetable, but also rare and delicate flowers.


Hexagro instead went for a more organic looking, that grows almost like a tree, scalable system.


Interesting is the approach of CellGarden. They realised a small (it would easily fit in most kitchen counters) appliance, with drawer compartments where you can insert their smart seed cartridges (20 different varieties are now available).


There are also people that thought of more “across the board” solutions, like Wallfarm, which focused on the control technology behind the needed for every VF solution. they developed a universal monitoring system that could be potentially applied to all the project we talked about, with the potential to provide simple automation and a central control platform to every consumer’s household, no matter the system used.

Their approach seems to be successful and they already have put in motion a pilot project in collaboration with Tower Garden (one of the most important reality in the indoor vertical farming player on the market).


Will Vertical Farming Feed the World? 🤔

Things are looking good! Quite literally…all these systems, as you can see from the photo above, will please the eye!

But also from the point of view of creating a sustainable food system, vertical farming yields great potential to tackle some of biggest issues that are we now facing in terms of food security and sustainability.

There is still some work to do. the main barrier this technology face is the lingering scepticism toward its widespread adoption, in particular from the part of the end consumer (which could perceive a product made with this technique as natural or genuine). Then there is the issue of improving, even more, the resource efficiency of these systems (especially in terms of water and energy consumption), so that they could be set up and implemented in underdeveloped part of the world,  where food is scarce,  to improve food security and living condition in a sustainable way

…and remember if you want to develop a vertical farming solution…hexagons!!



[1] FAO, IFAD, WFP (2015). The state of food insecurity in the world 2015.” 

[2] U.N. (2013). World population prospects: The 2012 revision.

[3] Green, R. E., Cornell, S. J., Scharlemann, J. P., & Balmford, A. (2005). Farming and the fate of wild nature. science, 307(5709), 550-555.

[4] Despommier, D. (2013). Farming up the city: the rise of urban vertical farms. Trends in biotechnology31(7), 388.

[5] Banerjee, C., & Adenaeuer, L. (2014). Up, up and away! The economics of vertical farming. Journal of Agricultural Studies, 2(1), 40-60.

A Blue Solution to Blue Mondays


Check this interesting article about very bold food innovation on Future Foods blog, then bookmark it to get more food tech and innovation news!

Meet Gik, a Spanish wine producer that went against centuries of tradition by creating a bright blue vino. The blend of red and white comes from grapes in La Rioja, León, and Castilla-La Mancha regions. It was dreamt up by a group of 6 friends in their 20s. Anthocyanin, a pigment from the red grapes’ skin, and indigotine, […]

via Blue wine? Okay! — FUTURE FOODS


Help! There is a Jellyfish in my Plate

An Englishman a Scotsman and an Irishman walk into a restaurant and order a jellyfish soup…Nope, it is not a joke and could become a daily reality in the not-so-far future. As a matter of fact, jellyfish could, after a long and thorough process, included (along with insects and algae[5]) in the fast-growing list of Novel Food[9]. This much is apparent from the all-Italian research lead by the CNR-ISPA (the Italian Institute of Sciences of Food Production ) researcher Antonella Leone [2,8], which has also gained European fame[3].

This research showed that not only jellyfish could be used as nutritionally and functionally rich food,  but also as a subject for pharmaceutical research as it has been found that these soft -bodied, weird, swimming animal contain substances that could yield anticancer and antioxidant effects[10,6].

Quite obviously not all jellyfish species could be used as food since some species contains irritating and toxic substances. Among the hundreds of kinds of jellyfish, the research has focused on three of the most common species in the Mediterranean sea, which are the Aurelia sp1., Cotylorhiza tuberculata and the Rhizostoma pulmo.[8]

One of the species (Cotylorhiza tuberculata) analysed in the research. Pretty neat, huh?

The use of these jellyfish as food could lead, as added benefit, to a decrease of the huge swarms or blooms (that is how big groups of jelly are called), that cause several problems, not only to fishing but also to the South European coastal tourism.

Their substantial rising and consequential thriving in the Mediterranean is linked to various circumstances, such as global warming, overfishing, the transformation of habitats, ocean acidification, etc…[4,7]

In china and in other far-eastern countries as Japan, Korea, or Malesia it is already, and has been for centuries, possible to eat delicious gourmet dishes based on jellyfish, generating a turnover of various millions, so much that western nation as USA and Australia begun to formulate and produce jellyfish based products specifically intended for export to Asian countries.[1,7]

The process to manufacture and preserve such products it is actually pretty simple. Once the jellyfish are gathered from the waters, they are sprinkled with sodium chloride (common table salt) and aluminium salts, which allow to reduce the water content and lower the pH, thus providing a firmer texture to the “meat”[6].

From a nutritional perspective, jellyfish are essentially composed of protein, like collagen, that could be also used as livestock feed, since, being jellyfish a marine animal, they are exempt from infection and disease that affects vertebrates (i.e. BSE)[6]. Furthermore, they are low-fat, low-carbs and are a naturally high source of water and minerals, with a caloric intake, calculated on the base of a desalted fully edible product, of 20 kcal per 100g. Not bad![1]

Among the best example of the use of jellyfish in the Asian cuisine, here are some recipes: jellyfish salad, jellyfish and chicken stirfry, and jellyfish with roasted duck.

P.S.: Some restaurant in Italy (in Lipari to be precise) have already started to include jellyfish in their menu!!

Buon Appetito!


Andrea Di Vita


[1] Y. H. P. Hsieh, F. M. Leong, and J. Rudloe, “Jellyfish as food,” Hydrobiologia, vol. 451, pp. 11–17, 2001.
[2] “Jellyfish as resource,” in Novel foods – research, innovation and sustainability, 2015, vol. 21, no. October.
[3] E. Scientific and C. Milan, “Shaping the Future of Food Safety , Together,” no. October, pp. 14–16, 2015.
[4] L. Brotz, W. W. L. Cheung, K. Kleisner, E. Pakhomov, and D. Pauly, “Increasing jellyfish populations: Trends in Large Marine Ecosystems,” Hydrobiologia, vol. 690, no. 1, pp. 3–20, 2012.
[5] F. B. Sempre, O. Plaza, and N. Mediterraneo, “INSETTI , ALGHE E MEDUSE : IL CIBO DEL FUTURO ?” pp. 1–4, 2016.
[6] A. Leone, “Contributo per sito Expo2015 – A. Leone Nuovi Cibi: Meduse nel piatto (Jellyfish in the dish),” in Nuovi Cibi: Meduse nel piatto (Jellyfish in the dish).
[7] H. Ojaveer, M. Austen, D. Beare, M. David, P. Dominici, G. L. Kraus, J. Lockett, D. M. Paterson, J. Pinnegar, L. Pinol, L. Rodriguez, a. Sell, and S. Sastre Sanz, “VECTORS of Change in Oceans and Seas Marine Life, Impact on Economic Sectors,” Oceans, pp. 1–222, 2011.
[8] A. Leone, R. M. Lecci, M. Durante, F. Meli, and S. Piraino, “The bright side of gelatinous blooms: Nutraceutical value and antioxidant properties of three Mediterranean jellyfish (Scyphozoa),” Mar. Drugs, vol. 13, no. 8, pp. 4654–4681, 2015.
[9] N. Solano, “Meduse, le mangeremo anche noi in futuro? | Agrodolce,”, 2016. [Online]. Available: [Accessed: 19-Mar-2017].
[10] D. Pastore, “Ricerca Cnr Ispa di Lecce Dalle meduse la sfida alle cellule cancerose Buone anche in cucina – La Gazzetta del Mezzogiorno,” Gazzetta Del Mezzogiorno, 2013. [Online]. Available: [Accessed: 19-Mar-2017].

Jellyfish as food.

First Post Soon! #jellyfishasfood

Come back to read out first post ever! Andrea will enlighten us on how we can use jellyfish as an ingredient!

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