Flaxseed is to this day a residual product of the fiber flax growing and processing industry in Belgium that is only used for low end technical applications. With the FLAXIT project, VITO wants to offer flax growers and processors the opportunity to maximise the value of their flaxseed. In doing so, VITO aims for applications in cosmetics, personal care and food products. 

Putting 20 000 tonnes of flax seed to good use

There are about 50 flax growers and/or scutchers in Belgium, who grow, harvest, and conduct the first processing steps in flax production. They produce the long & short flax fiber, - shives, and - seed. On the other hand, there are four flax processors in Belgium. Together they produce on average 20.000 tons of flaxseed.  

The flax growers are interested in knowing both, the most promising flax varieties in terms of fiber yield, and the yield, quality and valorisation potential of the by-products. Therefore, FLAXIT aims to apply a biorefinery concept to create industrially relevant products from flaxseed, an important by-product of the flax sector. These new value chains will be based on the oil (consisting of polyunsaturated fatty acids), carbohydrates and proteins present in flaxseed and target applications in cosmetics/personal care, techno-functional food ingredients and biobased materials applications. 

Flax seed-based products: bio-based, renewable and vegan

By using flaxseed as a raw material for cosmetics, personal care products and nutrients, producers can replace animal and fossil raw materials in their products. They can thus offer their customers a bio-based, renewable and vegan alternative to commonly used products. It is clear that the valorisation of flax seed thus creates sustainable opportunities for agriculture, industry and consumers in Belgium.

Drawing on previous research

FLAXIT is a collaboration between VITO, Universiteit Antwerpen, ILVO and Karel de Grote Hogeschool. The project is funded by FWO (Fonds Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek) within the Bioeconomy Impulse Programme. One of the target products is ‘esters’. VITO has a strong background in enzymatic ester synthesis as demonstrated in various Catalisti projects ‘Lipametics’, ‘Sweetest’, INTERREG projects ‘Valbran’, ‘Inticosm’ and Horizon Europe project ‘INCITE’. This expertise is now taken forward by using locally produced flaxseed oil for producing esters to be used in cosmetic applications for instance. 

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