Thecelosia plant with its brightly colored flowers is a real eye-catcher in the house. However, few people know that the plant is also suitable for human and animal consumption and can be used as a dye, herbicide and medicine.
Breeder Jeffrey Ammerlaan was involved in a study on the possibilities of residual flows from Deep Purple, one of thecelosia varieties that he and his partner Gertjan Sosef grow at their company in Honselersdijk, South Holland.
Ammerlaan was stimulated when he saw several projects during the Dutch Design Week in Eindhoven in which designers had presented innovative solutions for waste streams from agriculture and horticulture.
Every year, Ammerlaan-Sosef employees collect the tops of 4 million Celosia cuttings for better plant growth. These tips disappear into the green box, along with all other weeds. What would be possible with the residual flows of your plants? Ammerlaan wondered. The deep purple liquid, which sometimes leaked out of a waste container, was the main catalyst.
The path to a complete medicine requires the necessary investments
‘A friend of mine is a pastry chef and I was wondering if the purple dye of our lattices could also be used in his field. I started brainstorming and searching the internet. Among other things, I discovered that the plant comes from an edible family. That offers perspective, I thought.
The coronavirus pandemic gave the final push. The beginning of the corona crisis produced many residual flows, especially of ornamental plant products that were not sold. In the spring of 2020, at the initiative of the Valorisation Lab Residual Streams Horticulture and Arable Farming (Varta) and the Foundation for Innovation Greenhouse Horticulture of the Netherlands (SIGN), a screening of eighteen potential high-quality residual streams was carried out. .
The task was to investigate how these can be quickly converted into value or taken to another market. The research looked at potential plant ingredients with an eye to practical products aimed at a long-term business model, even after the corona crisis. Pruning residues from Ammerlaan-Sosef’s Deep Purplecelosia plants were allowed to participate.
Herbicides, cosmetics and medicines
The results of the study exceeded Ammerlaan’s expectations. Celosia plants not only appear to be edible for humans and animals and suitable as a dye, but can also be used to make herbicides, cosmetics, and medicines.
Celosia has medicinal properties. For example, the plant has an anti-inflammatory effect, promotes liver function, prevents diarrhea, and can be used in the treatment of type 2 diabetes mellitus.
a natural way
When the plant is used as a medicine, research is mainly focused on plant extracts that promote health naturally. ‘The road to complete medicine is long and requires the necessary investments,’ says Ammerlaan.
The possibilities of applying the lattice in the human and animal food sector are wide. The plant contains many vitamins and minerals. The nutritional value ofcelosia is comparable to that of other dark leafy vegetables such as spinach or Swiss chard, which is not entirely illogical since they belong to the same family.
food safe cultivation
But before that happens, attention must first be paid to establishing a food-safe Celosia crop so that it is suitable for the food sector. ‘To do this, we have to comply with several food industry guidelines in the nursery. That, of course, must be feasible,’ says Ammerlaan.
Another promising application of Lattice is dyes. The demand for plant-based dyes is increasing. These dyes have a wide application, from food products to textile paint. “For example, at the beginning of the corona pandemic, the extract from ourcelosias was used as a dye for hand sanitizer,” says the producer.
The possibility of making paper from jalousie was also examined. This application could be suitable for processing large amounts of waste streams, such as in Ammerlaan-Sosef.
In addition, the demand for sustainable paper is increasing, sometimes as a replacement for plastic. But the method that Varta developed in the research shows that the lattice residual flow is not suitable for processing on paper because this process is very laborious.
Now that the preliminary research has been done, the way is open for further research and the next step. ‘We know the process, the costs, the possibilities and the added value,’ says Ammerlaan. “It’s good to look beyond just supplying the best quality, colourful, potted plants, and it would be great if we could capitalize on our waste streams.”
Make a decision
Still, the report has been sitting in a drawer for some time. ‘I have to choose one of the options and invest again. But I don’t want another report. I want to start with a new product. I’d like to see someone show an interest and start this process with us.’
In principle, the grower has no economic motives. ‘Of course it’s nice if we can save on our waste costs, but it’s much more satisfying when another employer can do something with our waste streams. If a revenue model ultimately emerges from this, then of course that will be a welcome outcome.”
Zeeland Research on Greening Raw Materials
The Ammerlaan-Sosef nursery in Honselersdijk is not the only company investigating how to turn waste into new products. The Zeeland Agricultural Knowledge and Innovation Center and Delphy have started the ‘BioBased Innovations Garden’ project at the Rusthoeve in Colijnsplaat. This project focuses on exploring and developing new opportunities in the bioeconomy with the aim of replacing fossil and chemical raw materials with plants. De Rusthoeve and Delphy see opportunities for organic (artificial) fertilisers, plant protection products of natural origin, ingredients such as minerals, fatty acids, proteins, fibres, sugars and transition proteins. In order to make the possibilities of green raw materials more tangible and tangible, the Rusthoeve has been set up as a crop garden and experimental space with various potential innovative crops. Demand-driven cultivation links initiatives from agriculture and the processing industry (chemical and construction). An example is a study within the ‘Biocolor’ project. Work is being done to replace synthetic dyes, which are usually toxic if they end up in the environment, with dyes made with raw materials of plant origin. Two streams of raw materials are examined: residues and by-products from agriculture or the food industry and crops that are grown locally. The entire value chain is represented in this project, from the providers of raw material flows, the company that performs the extractions, and the companies that use the dyes.