SEEDFOOD: Functional and palatable plant seed storage proteins for sustainable foods

Our vision is to accelerate the transition from animal- to plant-based food proteins for sustainable food production and consumption in a world with a fast increasing population.

Picture of a rapeseed field

Rapeseed is farmed on large scale in Europe. Today rapeseed cakes containing the proteins are used for animal feed.

If the global production of rapeseed cakes is transformed to valuable protein isolates and used as food ingredients it can cover the protein requirements for 700 million human beings.

The project will:

  • establish new processes to remove antinutrients and improve the palatability (neutral flavour) of rapeseed protein

  • create food-grade protein modifications leading to the desired functionality and palatability

  • give molecular insight of interactions among plant proteins and other molecules in food matrices which will be used for tailoring the required functionality

Seedfood logoFunded by:

Logo of the Novo Nordisk Foundation

SEEDFOOD is a Novo Nordisk challenge research project
Project period: 1 January 2022 – 31 January 2027
PI: Marianne Nissen Lund
Project Coordinator

Most of the rapeseed grown in Europe is used for industrial oil production and animal feed. The SEEDFOOD project aims to change this by creating new fundamental knowledge, so the proteins instead can be applied in new food types for human consumption.

The transition from animal- to plant-based food proteins needs to be accelerated in order to support sustainable food production and consumption in a world where the population continues to increase fast. Crude plant protein concentrates are challenged by high levels of antinutrients, poor palatability (bitterness and astringency), inadequate functionalities for complex food systems and hence insufficient quality for food usage.

SEEDFOOD aims to tailor plant seed protein with highly functional, palatable, and nutritional properties through novel protein design and in-depth understanding of molecular interactions in the food matrix. Protein functionality and protein modification are in focus along with novel processing technology, biophysics and machine learning.

The research activities are divided into four separate, but closely interconnected, themes.

The vision and approach of SEEDFOOD is described in the figures below.

Figure outlining the vision of SEEDFOODFigure outlining the approach of SEEDFOOD


Our aim in Theme 1 is to generate native napin and cruciferin isolates with reduced levels of unpalatable and antinutritional compounds and control of mineral content. This will be achieved using emerging gentle technologies and knowledge of molecular properties. We intend to avoid industrial processes that require the use of high levels of water and energy and damage the rapeseed proteins. The technologies considered for isolation, purification and non-thermal enzyme inactivation are membrane filtration, pulsed electric field and electrodialysis.

Theme leader: Professor Lilia Ahrné, UCPH FOOD



The aim of Theme 2 is to understand how specific modifications induced by food-acceptable approaches affect rapeseed protein structures, and physical properties like solubility, unfolding, surface charge, and isoelectric points in order to improve functionality and palatability. Modifications on rapeseed proteins will be induced by enzymes and UV-light. The resulting protein material will be comprehensively characterized on the molecular level and effects on protein functionality and palatability will be evaluated in collaboration with Theme 4. Recombinant rape protein mutants produced in Theme 3 will be used for mechanistic studies.

Theme leader: Professor Marianne Nissen Lund, UCPH FOOD



In Theme 3 we will use purified rapeseed proteins (napin and cruciferin) as well as  recombinant rapeseed protein isoforms and mutants for mechanistic studies on protein biophysical properties with the aim to understand structure, stability, solubility and molecular interactions. The material will be comprehensively biophysically characterized. We moreover aim to investigate the interaction between rapeseed proteins and biomolecules from saliva and food matrices, which will enable us to design protein functionalities and improved palatability relevant for application in food.

Theme leader: Professor Alexander K. Büll, DTU Bioengineering



The aim in Theme 4 is to develop functional protein building blocks (aggregates, microgels, microcapsules) using insights on rapeseed protein modifications and interactions. We will also focus on understanding how native and modified rapeseed protein isolates create desired food structures (gels, emulsions, protein-rich solutions with high colloidal stability), and improve palatability by understanding how native and modified rapeseed proteins contribute to bitterness and astringency in the mouth through interaction with saliva.

Theme leader: Professor Taco Nicolai, University of Le Mans




University of Copenhagen, Denmark

  • Department of Food Science (UCPH FOOD)

Technical University of Denmark (DTU)

  • Department of Biotechnology and Biomedicine (DTU Bioengineering)

  • The Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Biosustainability (DTU Biosustain)

  • Department of Chemistry (DTU Chemistry)

University of Le Mans, France (ULM)

  • Institut des Molécules et Matériaux du Mans

Lund University, Sweden (LU)

  • Department of Chemical Engineering



The principal investigator (PI) of SEEDFOOD is Professor Marianne Nissen Lund, Department of Food Science, University of Copenhagen (UCPH FOOD). She is also in charge of Theme 2: Tailored modification of rapeseed proteins to control their functional and palatable properties, and she is supported by 3 co-PI’s:

Professor Lilia Ahrné, UCPH FOOD. She is in charge of Theme 1: Gentle and sustainable isolation of rapeseed proteins.

Professor Alexander Büll, Department of Bioengineering at the Technical University of Denmark (DTU-Bioengineering). Alexander Büll is heading Theme 3: Biophysical and structural understanding of both natural and recombinant rapeseed proteins and variants.

Professor Taco Nicolai, University of Le Mans, France, who is in charge of Theme 4: Functional and palatable properties of modified rapeseed proteins to create new rapeseed structures.

Theme 1 researchers

Theme leader, Professor Lilia Ahrné, UCPH FOOD

Professor Frank Lipnizki, Lund University

Postdoc Lavanya Chandrappa, UCPH FOOD

Postdoc Tiffany Patra, UCPH FOOD

Theme 2 researchers

Professor Poul Erik Jensen, UCPH FOOD

Postdoc Marcos H. Vinde, UCPH FOOD

Theme leader and PI of SEEDFOOD, Marianne Nissen Lund, UCPH FOOD

Adjunct Professor Jacob Holm Nielsen, UCPH FOOD

Associate Professor Åsmund Rinnan, UCPH FOOD

Assistant Professor Mahesha M. Poojary, UCPH FOOD

Assistant Professor Kasper Engholm-Keller, UCPH FOOD

Theme 3 researchers

Theme leader, Professor Alexander Büll, DTU Bioengineering

Professor Poul Erik Jensen, UCPH FOOD

Professor Birte Svensson, DTU Bioengineering

Professor J. Preben Morth, DTU Bioengineering

Professor Morten O. A. Sommer, DTU Biosustain

Professor Günther H.J. Peters, DTU Chemistry

Assistant Professor Marie S. Møller, DTU Bioengineering

Team Coordinator Leonie J. Jahn, DTU Biosustain

Postdoc Shuang-Yan Wang, DTU Bioengineering

Postdoc Suk Kyu Ko, DTU Bioengineering, DTU Chemistry

PhD student Casper Robert Balten van der Luijt, UCPH FOOD / DTU Biosustain

Theme 4 researchers

PhD student Colleen Mudeau, ULM

PhD student Maria Moutkane, ULM

Theme leader, Professor Taco Nicolai, ULM

Professor Wender Bredie, UCPH FOOD

The organization of the project, including other researchers involved in the project, is shown in the figure below.

Picture of SEEDFOOD's organizational outline



Available positions in SEEDFOOD will be posted on this page throughout the project period.