- Biofortification Revolution: Scientists from the John Innes Centre, LettUs Grow, and the Quadram Institute have successfully biofortified pea shoots with Vitamin B12 using unique aeroponic technology, offering a promising alternative source of this essential nutrient.
- From Animals to Plants: As global dietary recommendations shift towards plant-rich diets, B12, primarily found in animal sources, emerges as a crucial nutrient. Biofortified pea shoots can deliver the recommended daily dose of B12, bridging the nutritional gap for those on plant-based diets.
- Beyond Supplements: Unlike isolated synthetic supplements, biofortified crops deliver a spectrum of nutrients, antioxidants, and other beneficial compounds, promoting a holistic approach to nutrition.
- Aeroponics – The Game-Changer: The aeroponic indoor farming technique, particularly the method developed by LettUs Grow, has demonstrated potential in growing biofortified crops efficiently, sustainably, and at a scalable volume. This approach can transform the accessibility and affordability of nutrient-rich foods.
The modern world faces numerous challenges in nutrition. From malnutrition in developing countries to overconsumption in developed nations, finding a balanced and sustainable dietary solution is more crucial than ever. The UK research on the biofortification of pea shoots with Vitamin B12, backed by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), offers a glimpse into a hopeful future.
Biofortification – An Introduction
Biofortification enhances the nutritional value of crops. Whether through biotechnology, traditional plant breeding, or specific agronomic practices, this method enriches the vitamins or nutrients naturally found in food crops. The endgame is straightforward: address malnutrition and nutrient deficiencies more organically.
With global shifts towards more plant-rich diets, primarily driven by the Eat Lancet Planetary Health Diet and the WWF Eat4Life dietary recommendations, there is a growing interest in Vitamin B12. Historically derived from animal sources, B12 is now seen as a nutrient that can be obtained from plant sources, thanks to biofortification.
Professor Martin Warren from the Quadram Institute highlights the importance of this development. With B12 playing an integral role in bodily functions, from nerve function to DNA synthesis, finding new sources of this nutrient can redefine health and nutrition.
Why is this Different from Supplements?
The distinction between biofortified crops and traditional vitamin supplements is profound. While supplements offer a synthetic, isolated nutrient source, biofortified crops are wholesome. They deliver a single nutrient and a diverse array, including antioxidants and other phytochemicals. This aligns with our daily dietary habits, making the transition smoother and more sustainable. Imagine obtaining the B12 from a salad bag equivalent to two portions of beef.
Indoor Farming – The Future of Agriculture?
Indoor farming presents an answer to the challenge of growing biofortified crops sustainably. Greenhouses and vertical farms have taken center stage, offering year-round growth, efficient resource use, and a shield against external agricultural challenges like pests and unpredictable weather.
Aeroponics, a subset of indoor farming, emerges as a promising tool. With roots exposed to nutrient mists, plants can optimize nutrient absorption, maximizing their growth. The aeroponics technique utilized by LettUs Grow is especially noteworthy. Water is transformed into a nutrient-rich mist through ultrasonic frequencies, ensuring precise crop delivery.
The collaboration between academia and industry has driven this innovation, offering a scalable solution. As Lilly Manzoni from LettUs Grow points out, this project’s scalability ensures that the end product reaches the masses, potentially bringing about a significant positive impact on public health.
The collaborative effort in the UK to biofortify pea shoots with Vitamin B12 represents a landmark in nutritional science. With biofortification combined with advanced agricultural practices like indoor farming, the world is poised to combat malnutrition effectively, promote sustainable diets, and take a step closer to a healthier future.
Image provided by LettUs Grow