New technology adds value to under-used agricultural products

A University of Alberta spin-off company is hoping to bring new value to under-used agricultural products  by developing specialized protein drinks for Asian markets.

IGY Inc. of Edmonton is working on a technology to solubilize – or liquefy – protein from lower value cuts of meat, a process they’re hoping to then also apply to products prized for their health properties in some nations, like antler velvet or ginseng.

The target audience, says IGY Inc.’s President Gary Villetard, are seniors, hospital patients on restricted diets, and others who have difficulty digesting protein, first in Asian markets like South Korea and Japan and then hopefully in North America.

In collaboration with partners in Japan and South Korea, IGY Inc. and Dr. Hoon Sunwoo from the University of Alberta’s Faculty of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences are using a new technology called high hydrostatic pressure combined with enzymatic hydrolysis (HHP-EH), which mimics the digestion of proteins by enzymes in the human gastrointestinal tract.

“This lets us extract protein hydrolysates from various sources of animal proteins that we can then use to develop protein drinks,” explains Villetard. “If you take a chicken breast and run it through this machine, the protein looks like a glass of water.”

It’s cheaper and faster than conventional methods, with more enzymatic activity and less bacteria growth. Filtration eliminates any indigestible fibres or floating fat – external meat fat can be trimmed before processing, but internal fat can’t be removed until after the meat has been solubilized.

“This process is superior to conventional methods. Liquid meat protein hydrolysates are stable in a glass bottle at room temperature without preservatives for up to six months so far; we will continue testing for up to one year,” says Dr. Sunwoo, adding that the process still needs to be optimized to make it more efficient, something he is now working on with project collaborators in South Korea.

Next steps include developing prototype products, which Villetard hopes to take to Asia for initial feedback at trade shows later this year, then then ultimately, establishing commercial scale production.

“Our challenge is keeping the capital costs of upscaling as low as possible, and penetrating the market,” he says. “But our opportunity lies in our low cost of production, a high quality product, and our partners in Japan and Korea who can help us move into those markets.”

Why is this innovation important?

Health: Animal proteins can be made available to seniors, hospital patients on restricted diets, and others with difficulty digesting protein, in an easy to consume and absorb way.

Economics: This innovation will give new value to under-used agricultural products, which could increase profitability of processors and farmers, as well as create jobs.

Markets: Canadian companies will have access to new segments of the Asian market.

What does this innovation mean to Canada’s food processing industry?

HHP-EH technology is quicker and more economical than conventional methods, and produces a product that is stable at room temperature without preservatives.

About IGY Inc.

IGY Inc. is a University of Alberta spin-off company that creates IGY technology – technologies based on the avian immune system – for the betterment of human and animal health. IGY stands for immunoglobulin Y, which are antibodies found in egg yolk.

About the project team

Dr. Hoon Sunwoo is an Associate Professor in Faculty of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences at the University of Alberta. His research centres around translational immunology and biotechnology research for diagnostics, therapeutics, and vaccines based on IGY and engineered antibody technologies.

Gary Villetard is President of IGY Inc., and has over 40 years of marketing experience

Cluster 1 2015-2018


Advancing health and wellness


Development of protein hydrolysates and ginseng extracts via innovative high hydrostatic pressure-enzymatic hydrolysis (HHP-EH) technology

Industry partner

IGY Inc., Edmonton AB

Principal investigator

Dr. Hoon Sunwoo, University of Alberta

Anticipated completion date

31 March 2018