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Novel refining and export opportunities for plant-based raw materials in Central Ostrobothnia

Branch: Chemistry and bioeconomy

Duration: 1.11.2021 – 31.8.2023

Region: Central Ostrobothnia

Financed by: European Regional Development Fund
Council of Centrtral Ostrobothnia

Project Manager: Leena Favén

Refining plant-based raw materials into health products, natural cosmetics and even medicine is a big business in the world. The turnover of individual companies in Central or Southern Europe, for example, can be several hundred million euros, while in Finland the turnover of the entire industry has varied from 500 to 700 million euros. Significant bottlenecks for growth and the creation of new companies include: adequate access to raw materials, verification of the quality of raw materials and products, in particular for export, insufficient knowledge and skills of GMP (good manufacturing practices) processing processes. 

Cultivation and refining of plant-based raw materials incl. freeze-drying could also be an opportunity to increase jobs in Central Ostrobothnia if more information was available on processing, such as various extractions and drying, and freeze-drying. Farmers in Central Ostrobothnia are interested in the possibility of industrial refining of specialty plants, e.g. drying and extraction, but farmers’ own resources and know-how are currently insufficient to develop the industry and they need external development assistance and information to boost business. Farmers and several forest owners are waiting for information on profitable processing opportunities for plant-based materials and quality verification guidelines, which would increase the opportunities for utilizing high-quality raw materials and open up new refining opportunities for higher-priced premium products because of their purity and authenticity. At the same time, a basis would be created for companies to develop higher value-added products and export opportunities. 

The aim of the project is to promote cultivation of specialty plants in accordance with sustainable development as well as further refining and export and it could also help to replace meat production.  The project provides a market overview of the global market situation for specialty plants and the export potential. The project investigates the current situation of special plant cultivation and the possibilities of automation of special crop cultivation and pre-treatment. Extraction and drying processes of active ingredients are optimized for selected plant-based raw materials and quality verification methods are developed. The operation of the pilot-scale freeze-dryer is optimized and tested, and drying experiments are performed on plant-based raw materials. As a result of the project, more specialty plant farmers and micro entrepreneurs specially through freeze drying trials will be activated and new processing methods will be optimized. In the long run, an increased refining of both cultivated and wild plant-based raw materials into new products could also bring more job opportunities to, for example, immigrants in both primary production and industry. 

The project is financed by the council of Central Ostrobothnia, ERDF and municipalities of Kaustinen, Kokkola, Kannus and Perho. Budget is €416 316.


Leena Favén