How Unused Plant Fiber Is Poised to Transform Food Systems

Upcycling otherwise unused plant fiber helps makes every acre more productive.

Try sugars from fiber for yourself, in our delicious hand-crafted chocolate.

In our previous post, we wrote about how fiber helps support human health, and how sugars from fiber can help transform global food systems. But at The Supplant Company, we also pay close attention to the health of our planet. That’s why we’re developing a way to make global food systems more sustainable, with sugars from fiber.

We face a global reality that the planet can only produce so much food. According to the World Economic Forum, there will be two billion more people on Earth by 2050. The organization observes that “today’s agriculture can’t deliver enough food to meet that need, so change is needed to increase output across the globe, but it mustn’t be done at the expense of an increasingly fragile environment.”

Making better use of unused fiber that’s already available in the world can help solve the interrelated problems of climate change and food insecurity.

Accessing Abundance

Unused fiber is readily abundant because it is grown along with agricultural crops: it’s the stems, stalks, cobs, and leaves of the plants we grow for food. Globally, that unused material amounted to approximately 5.5 billion tons in 2013, one of the most recent years for which statistics are available, while the U.S. Department of Energy predicts the U.S. alone will have approximately 180 million dry tons of what it calls “crop residues” by 2030.

After the harvest, that fiber becomes an agricultural side stream, which means much as half of the plant in grain crops like corn, and as much as 80 percent of the plant in crops like sugarcane, goes uneaten. Humans don’t have the enzymes needed to digest it — and, of course, we don’t consider things like corn stalks, cobs, or husks to be food.

Fiber Feeds a Hungry Planet

But this unused plant material contains macronutrients like carbohydrates that, if they were accessible, could help feed this hungry planet. At The Supplant Company, we use an enzymatic process to access these nutrients by breaking this fiber down into its component short- and long-chain carbohydrates, which are sugars and fiber.

Our process lets us turn previously unusable fiber into edible sugars from fiber, that can be used to make familiar foods like chocolate and baked goods. With less than half the calories of refined cane sugar, plus fiber and prebiotic qualities, sugars from fiber help solve several health problems associated with refined sugars — read more about these in our previous blog post.

As The Supplant Company founder Dr. Tom Simmons observes, “bringing unused or low-value agricultural plant fiber into the food system helps us solve three of the world’s greatest problems: insufficient food, insufficient quality of food, and damaging the environment from food production.”

Besides reducing the climate impact of disposing unused agricultural plant fiber, using sugars from fiber creates food from every acre of grain production. This helps support The Supplant Company’s goals to make agriculture more efficient, and provide more food for a growing planetary population.

Try sugars from fiber for yourself, in our delicious hand-crafted chocolate.

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