TURNING FUEL INTO FOOD, RATHER THAN FOOD INTO FUEL by Unibio, Denmark
The world needs sustainable solutions to overcome the food challenges of the 21st century. Therefore, we do need to figure out how we can feed the growing world population when agriculture land per capita is decreasing and how we can produce more protein in a sustainable way without polluting our planet.
Figure 2: The unique U-Loop® technology producing the bacterial protein meal Uniprotein®.
produce food for humans instead of feed for animals. Unibio’s unique bacterial fermentation technology is called U-Loop® technology and was developed in cooperation with the Technical University of Denmark (DTU). The U-Loop® technology is based on a process occurring in nature every day, which has been transformed into a bioindustrial setting (Figure 2). Natural gas (methane) is converted into nibio is a Danish biotech Uniprotein® that can be used as a protein-rich, healthy and company founded in 2001. Its main focus is to supply sustainable ingredient in feed for all animals. solutions to the challenge of The U-Loop® technology ensures optimal growth conditions protein scarcity in an ecofor the bacteria by ensuring an optimal feeding environment friendly way while addressing through liquid movement, fermentation temperature and input the environmental issues of control. overfishing, deforestation, use The bacteria eat methane and double in number every second of pesticides and fertilisers, hour, and the liquid is transformed into a protein broth. The exhaustion of farm lands and water resources. Unibio has tailor-made technology of the U-Loop® fermenter speeds up unique competencies within fermentation technologies the natural process significantly as a vertical fermenter design allowing a highly scalable production of protein with the has been developed which can handle a large volumetric gas use of methanotroph bacteria. Methane is converted into the fraction, significantly improving average production. This highly concentrated bacterial protein meal, Uniprotein®, in allows a much more energy-efficient transport of nutrients from gas phase to liquid phase at a much higher rate compared to an environmentally friendly manner with a minimum use of conventional bioreactors. The special U-Loop® fermentation energy and water. Since the foundation, Unibio’s goal has been to provide technology thus adds a new and sustainable protein production the world with innovative sustainable solutions to meet the method to the traditional food value chain. challenges of a growing global population and sustained Uniprotein® is grown by an aerobic fermentation of growth in living standards, which have increased the global methane by applying four different bacteria with the demand for fish and meat for human consumption. With the methanotrophic bacterium Methylococcus capsulatus being use of Unibio’s biotechnological the major one. It is a protein-rich innovations the company is able biomass produced by the microbial Table 1: Maximum inclusion levels of Uniprotein® in to decouple protein production culture of the four different bacteria animal diets based on initial studies. from the fluctuating and limited with methane as the sole carbon Species Inclusion level (% of diet) agricultural sector (Figure 1) and and energy source. The bacterial Fish (Atlantic salmon) 36%2 the volatile fishing industries. biomass is heat-treated (UHT) for a 1 Thus, a change in the protein short period of time to kill the host Broiler 12% value chain occurs where bacteria in the fermentation process Pig 15% 3,4 proteins can be produced by the and to sterilise the product and is then Mink 8% 5 bioindustry as feed for animals, spray-dried into a powder or pellet Dog (blue fox) 12% 6 and cropland can be used to product. The main nutrient content 26 | July 2018 - International Aquafeed