At Planet Amino, we are striving to make sustainable consumption easy. This means that we need to select the right ingredients for our products. Today we will do a full dive into one of our main ingredients, Faba bean protein powder.
Faba bean the plant
Faba beans belong to a large and happy family known as the Fabaceae (or Leguminosae). The Fabaceae family has been around for a long time! They have been cultivated since the start of agriculture some ~10000 years ago.
Faba beans are also called broad beans, fava beans or vicia faba for you latin friends out there. This family contains over 20000 known species. The most famous plants (superstars) of this family include peas, chickpeas, peanuts, lentils, beans, liquorice and soybeans.
Where do faba beans grow?
According to data by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, this was the average yearly production of faba beans (in tonnes) per country between 2015 and 2020:
As you can see, Faba beans are already grown all over the world. The data for US & Canada is missing but it also grows in those countries. Planet amino faba beans come from Northern Europe.
What are faba beans used for?
Faba beans are used worldwide to make delicious meals. Some famous dishes include ful medames in Egypt and other Arab countries, doubanjiang in the Sichuan region of China and sopa de habas in some Spanish speaking countries. New faba bean products have also appeared in Finnish supermarkerts in recent years.
Faba beans are a good source of plant-protein. Based on the data from Fineli, the Finnish institute for health and welfare, 100 grams of fresh faba beans have 102 Kcal, 13.1g of carbohydrates, 8.8g of protein and 0.6g of fat
Faba beans are used as feed for livestock (animals). In Finland, most of the faba beans are still used to feed cows.
They are also used as a cover crop. Cover crops can be planted when fields are not used for harvesting (after the harvest season or in rotation years), to prevent the soil from eroding. Leguminous plants (such as Faba beans, lentils…) are used as cover crops because they also help fertilize the soil. The bacteria in the roots of the plant help turn atmospheric nitrogen (N2) into ammonium (NH4+). In the following harvesting season, the ammonium helps the plants grow faster. This process can be used as an alternative to chemical nitrogen fertilizers.
How is the protein extracted from Faba beans?
Power cookies are baked out of a high protein faba bean protein powder (over 60% protein). We saw previously that fresh faba beans contain 8.8% of protein. A few steps in an industrial plant are needed to produce our powder:
The first step is to separate the outer shell of the bean from the inside. This outer shell consists mainly of fiber that can be used for animal/pet food or for baking applications.
The inside of the bean consists of starch, protein and fiber. Because the protein dissolves in water, water is added. The mixture then goes through filtration steps and drying to produce a powder with a high content of protein.
The output of this faba bean process is three distinct products: fiber, starch and protein. These can then be used in the food industry for human food or pet food.
How big of a field of faba beans is needed to provide all the protein for finland?
For all you high school math friends out there, let’s do a fun little calculation. Let’s say we wanted ALL the protein consumed in Finland to come from Faba Beans. How big of a field would we need?
Based on the data from the Natural Resources Institute of Finland, between 2009 and 2018, the average faba bean yield was 2200kg/ha or 220 000 kg/km²
We know from the section above that 100g of faba beans contains 8.8 grams of protein. Which means that one hectare will produce 8.8*10*2200/100 = 194 kg of protein per year.
There are 5.5 million people in Finland who need to eat 100g protein per day (this is an exaggeration but let’s stay on the safe side). That means that Finland needs 201 million kilograms of protein per year.
We therefore find that Finland would need 10 400 km² of faba fields to produce all the protein needed in the country. That is an area about the size of Uusimaa, the capital region (blue area in the map below). It is also about the same amount as the roughly 11 000 hectares used just for livestock crops!
We would also get plenty of starch and fiber, thus reducing the need for other crops.
Obviously we don’t want all the protein in Finland to come from Faba beans.
That wouldn’t be sustainable because crops can have bad years. It would also be boring, variety in diets is great! The point of this calculation was to illustrate how much more efficiently we could produce protein.
A wide range of plant protein sources can be a good alternative to animal protein. By slowly changing our habits over time we can make a change for the better. That’s why Planet Amino is out here making tasty plant protein alternatives!
Summary: Why are faba beans a good ingredient?
Faba beans are wonderful because:
- They are already grown everywhere
- They can be used for many different purposes
- They allow to produce protein more efficiently than animal protein alternatives.
And most importantly, they can be used to bake great power cookies!