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ARS Home » Midwest Area » St. Paul, Minnesota » Plant Science Research » Research » Research Project #438324

Research Project: Technoeconomic and Market Analysis of Alfalfa Protein Concentrate Production

Location: Plant Science Research

Project Number: 5062-12210-004-042-A
Project Type: Cooperative Agreement

Start Date: Jun 1, 2020
End Date: Aug 31, 2022

Carry out a technoeconomic and market analysis of alfalfa protein concentrate production.

Producer and end-user stakeholder involvement will be incorporated in designing acceptable on-farm processes that are expected to yield a cost-effective, high- quality protein product. We first plan to survey alfalfa producers and producers of aquafeed. Alfalfa Protein Concentrate (APC) production will be evaluated for its potential as a high-value co-product, with the deproteinized residue as a livestock or biomass feedstock. For technoeconomic analysis, the basic process will be field fractionation of leaves from stems, grinding fresh leaves to disrupt the cell walls, followed by mechanical pressing to yield a protein rich juice, heat coagulation to produce a solid protein product, and finally, a drying step to produce a convenient to use aquafeed additive. Various processing technologies will be compared on a technical and cost basis for each unit operation. For the first processing step, pressing whole-plant will be compared to just leaf fractions and maceration to direct pressing. As such, we plan to study the sensitivity of the system to screw press and alternative press technologies. Several technologies will also be compared for precipitating the protein from the juice. While preliminary data suggests heat coagulation gives the highest protein yield, our analysis will be extended to include acid, fermentation-based, centrifugation, and membrane separation methods. And finally, for drying, fluidized bed and spray drying will be compared. Economic analysis will be used to help choose among these processing options using literature and vendor supplied equipment costs and standard engineering costing methods to estimate total fixed capital investment. Production costs will be estimated from operating costs (raw material, labor, utilities, maintenance, operating supplies), fixed charges (depreciation of fixed capital), and financing (interest). Preliminary economic results will be shared with appropriate shareholders to further refine the analysis. Process yield data and capital equipment/processing related costs will be combined with field harvesting data to determine total cost throughout the APC production system. On-farm, and regional process equipment sharing will be considered by balancing capital and transportation costs. Here we plan to use an engineering approach and equations from ASABE Standards to calculate ownership and operating costs per hour of equipment use.