Optimal use and valorization of biomass streams from Cichorium


CichOpt targets biorefinery concepts for sustainable use of all Cichorium biomass available.

To realize this, it will use the most advanced ‘omics’ technologies and smartly designed biorefinery concepts striving for maximal integration by using environmentally and energy-effcient processing, extraction and purification technologies.

Bio-activity guided process and product development will result in innovative concepts useful for a wide range of actors in the future bio-based economy, including food & drink applications and cosmetics and biomaterials as non-food applications (Fig.1).

This, together with a strong EU research team, guarantees the evidence-based generation of innovative solutions needed for this bio-based economy. Cichorium species were chosen for their economic importance and local and regionally clustered availability of large volumes of waste & by-products.

Some of the underutilized fractions such as forecd Belgian Endive roots are relatively stable and available almost year-round in relatively big volumes (>400.000 tons). This are all relevant assets to make underutilized biomass fractions of Cichorium crops a an interesting feedstock for multi-input, multi-output small scale biorefineries.

Belgian Endive roots processed into cubes as feedstock for the setup of a spontaneous fermentation process. Photo: ILVO

From an agronomic viewpoint, most species have a good yield, climate resilience and potential to complement traditional EU crop rotations. Finally, economically relevant  functionalities and bio-activities have been assigned to Cichorium biomass. Most of the species are rich in broad set of dietary fibers, sugars and secondary metabolities such as sesquiterpenelactones and polyphenols.

This provides mutliple opportunities for the envisaged bio-based product development. Adequate  LCA and TEA analysis will provide a solid base to select the best concepts. Strategic interaction with all relevant stakeholders right from the start of the project will result in the maximal valorization of the obtained results and an effective dissemination of the CichOpt results. This will support the wider goal of developping an EU bio-based economy that is sustainable and climate proof.

View on the LC-MS/MS system used to
characterize secondary metabolites 
(polyphenols and sesquiterpene lactones)
in Cichorium biomass samples. Photo: ILVO 



These roots are harvested from the Belgian Endive crop sown in the
field. In autumn the roots are harvested, sorted and stored in
refrigerators. During the months that follow these roots are used
to ‘force’ the production of Belgian Endive. This production of
Belgian Endive can be done either in soil again (labour intensive)
or in hydroponic systems (more automated). 
The green racks on
the left are filled with roots ready to go into the hydroponic 
forcing system. Photo: ILVO


Dr. Bart Van Droogenbroeck, 

Institute for agriculture, fisheries and food research, Belgium - Flanders



Project partners

Institute for agriculture, fisheries and food research, Belgium - Flanders

Inagro vzw, Belgium - Flanders

Wageningen Plant Research, Netherlands

Nationale Proeftuin voor Witloof vzw, Belgium - Flanders

University of Hohenheim, Germany

VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland Ltd, Finland