Breakthrough discovers way to biofortify pea shots using aeroponic indoor farming

Biofortification is the process of enhancing the nutritional value of crops

Biofortification is the process of enhancing the nutritional value of crops

A team of UK researchers have discovered a way to biofortify pea shoots with Vitamin B12 using aeroponic indoor farming. This breakthrough could contribute to more sustainable and healthier diets, reports Agritech Future.

In a Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) funded project, scientists from the John Innes Centre, LettUs Grow and the Quadram Institute have identified one of the nutrients that hold immense promise for biofortification – Vitamin B12. The project uses LettUs Grow’s ultrasonic aeroponic technology to grow B12 fortified pea shoots which contain the recommended daily dose in a single small portion, the publication said.

Biofortification is the process of enhancing the nutritional value of crops through biotechnology, traditional plant breeding or agronomic practices that increase the amount or types of vitamins or nutrients compared to what is normally present. It is a powerful tool that can address malnutrition, particularly for those in developing countries where access to nutrient-rich foods is often limited.

Traditionally, B12 has been a nutrient primarily obtained from animal sources. Deficiency can lead to severe and irreversible damage, particularly to the brain and nervous system. 

Commenting on the breakthrough, professor Martin Warren, chief scientific officer at the Quadram Institute, told Agritech Future: “This is a really exciting development in providing an adequate intake of vitamin B12 to enhance overall health and well-being. This is important as B12 plays a crucial role in various bodily functions, including red blood cell formation, nerve function, and DNA synthesis. Many people, especially those on plant-based diets are prone to B12 deficiency and insufficiency – and while vitamin B12 supplements are available, some people may find it more convenient and natural to obtain essential nutrients directly from whole foods. Fortified plants hold the potential to provide a more integrated way to meet nutritional requirements.”

Adding his thoughts, professor Antony Dodd, head of cell and developmental biology at the John Innes Centre, said: “Advances in understanding of how plants interact with their environments, including new horticultural technologies such as vertical farms that use aeroponics, provides exciting opportunities to produce crops that are more nutritious, with less environmental impact. By combining expertise in plant sciences, human nutrition and horticultural engineering, we are developing new approaches to address nutritional deficiencies, at relatively low cost.”

And Lilly Manzoni, head of research and development at LettUs Grow added: “Something that’s really exciting about this project in particular is that it is the first time the enhanced yield potential of aeroponics has been combined with the nutrition enhancement of B12 fortification in a way that can be scaled up to commercial volumes. This potential to scale the innovation is crucial for accessibility of the end product and getting it out at a level that could hopefully positively impact public health.”