Award details

Salad crop fortification with Vitamin B12 to close a hidden hunger gap

Principal Investigator / Supervisor Professor Antony Dodd
Co-Investigators /
Professor Martin Warren
Institution John Innes Centre
DepartmentCell and Develop Biology
Funding typeResearch
Value (£) 202,274
TypeResearch Grant
Start date 01/01/2023
End date 31/10/2024
Duration22 months


We will develop an optimised and cost-effective methodological framework for B12 fortification of pea shoots, which will be commercially deployable to produce B12 fortified supermarket salad products. This will provide a pathway to enhance public health by allowing B12 consumption with food, which substantially increases B12 absorption. To achieve this goal, we will: Develop a reproducible and low-cost method for the fortification of pea shoots with B12. This includes the development of a costed economic farm model and life cycle assessment for its production. Determine the shelf life and nutritional value of B12 fortified pea shoots. This includes assessment of the stability of B12 and total nutrient composition of fortified pea shoots in time-course experiments that replicate a chilled food supply chain, and measuring B12 bioavailability during human digestion with a laboratory gut model. Identify varieties of microgreen pea that accumulate B12 most efficiently. This will inform growers about variety choice, with the insights providing a foundation for future breeding of elite pea varieties with optimized B12 accumulation. Develop a method that can be deployed to provide a Quality Assessment to Certify B12 fortified pea shoots.


Worldwide, there is a growing epidemic of insufficiency of Vitamin B12 across the human life-course. This results in severe morbidity and mortality, and increases to healthcare costs. A contributing factor to rising Vitamin B12 insufficiency is the transition to more sustainable plant-based diets, because plants do not make Vitamin B12. Our project aims to deliver a strategy to use plants as a conduit for the provision of Vitamin B12 on a commercially-viable scale. This involves the efficient incorporation of the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of the vitamin within components of marketable salad bags. Incorporation of the Vitamin B12 into salad components will promote its absorption during digestion, because consuming food causes the secretion of factors required for human Vitamin B12 absorption. We have already developed a preliminary method to fortify pea shoots with the RDA of Vitamin B12. Pea shoots (Pisum sativum) are a desirable crop for growers to fortify with vitamins because they are easy to grow and have a short growth cycle, being ready for harvest within less than 10 days after germination. Furthermore, single or mixed pea shoot salad bags have been a popular introduction to the supermarket shelves in recent years, because they add considerable flavour compared with lettuce. The technological breakthroughs that underpin this work have become possible only through a multidisciplinary collaboration that combines expertise in plant physiology and development (Prof. Antony Dodd and Dr. Bethany Eldridge, John Innes Centre), Vitamin B12 metabolism (Prof. Martin Warren, Quadram Institute Bioscience), and a commercial partner focused on the engineering, economics, and operation of Contained Environment Agriculture Facilities (LettUs Grow Ltd). The relatively low cost of the B12 fortification method developed here will allow salad producers to supplement salad bags with the RDA of B12 for a few pence. Inclusion of this nutrient within a salad bag combined with experimental validation of the digestive availability of B12 will allow salad producers to attach a premium to the salad product. The product will increase consumer choice by providing an alternative plant based B12 option that has the benefit of improved bioavailability and associated health benefits.
Committee Not funded via Committee
Research TopicsX – not assigned to a current Research Topic
Research PriorityX – Research Priority information not available
Research Initiative Follow-On Fund (FOF) [2004-2015]
Funding SchemeX – not Funded via a specific Funding Scheme
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