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Scaling up of methane gas derived fishmeal alternative underway: Calysta

By Jane Byrne

21-Sep-2016
Last updated on 21-Sep-2016 at 15:13 GMT2016-09-21T15:13:59Z

© Calysta
© Calysta

This week saw US firm, Calysta, formally open a UK pilot plant to produce its ‘protein-rich biomass’ for fish feed as an alternative to fishmeal and soymeal.

The plant will produce around 5 to 10 tons of the methane gas to protein product, FeedKind, on an annual basis, said the producer. 

However, the facility, which is located in Teeside, in the North East of England, will not become fully operational until Q4 2016.

US approval sought

MP Anna Turley and Alan Shaw, CEO of Calysta at opening of pilot plant for FeedKind

“The facility is being set up as a pilot plant to develop product samples for industry but also for registrations beyond Europe, a market where the additive is already approved for sale.

“We are particularly interested in securing a US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) registration. But, to do that, we need contemporary samples of the protein,” Calysta CEO, Alan Shaw, told this publication previously.

Calysta said the first target sector for FeedKind will be the salmon farming industry, but shrimp and other fish species, and eventually livestock, are also potential markets for the protein ingredient.

It said the methane gas derived product can compete with fishmeal in terms of protein levels and price.

Facility is UK grant supported

The company had initially looked at setting up the pilot production site in Norway, particularly as that was where the methane to feed protein project was born.

“The Norwegian developers definitely did all the heavy lifting on the FeedKind concept. However, we choose the UK location on the strength of a grant — £2.8m ($4.03m) — we were awarded under an initiative driven by the UK government’s regional growth strategy,” said Shaw. 

FeedKind production process:

The protein product is formed during the fermentation of methanotrophic microorganisms with small amounts of scavenger microorganisms to assist in culture stability, along with methane, ammonia and mineral salts. Natural gas or other methane source is pumped through a specialized fermenter, and the microorganisms metabolise the gas as their sole source of energy, producing a high-protein biomass.

Wet product is extracted from the fermenter and dried, before being pelletised and packaged for shipping. Typically the fermenter will run for seven weeks continuously, before requiring three days of cleaning. The cycle will then repeat.

A Carbon Trust report found the Calysta protein product could offer significant advantages over current fish feed ingredients as its production was shown to use 77-98% less water than raw materials like soy and wheat proteins.

The Teeside plant is supported by a conditional Exceptional Regional Growth Fund (EGRF) award.

The onus on the company, following the securing of the grant, was to ensure job creation in a region scarred by manufacturing facility closures in recent years. Calysta said the UK facility will generate up to 40 positions in science, engineering and operations, along with indirect jobs benefits in construction and the supply chain in that region in the UK. 

Investment 

International investors and government officials were among the stakeholders attending the opening of the pilot facility.  

In February this year, the US biotechnology firm reported that it had received $30m in funding in a C Series round with backing from the corn milling division of Cargill, together with investment by the Municipal Employee Retirement System (MERS) of Michigan, Old Westbury Global Real Assets Fund LLC as well as capital from existing investors Walden Riverwood Ventures, Aqua-Spark and Pangaea Ventures.

And Cargill is also collaborating with Calysta in a project to construct a North American plant to produce FeedKind.

The company has still not confirmed a location for the site, but said it is scheduled to be operational towards the end of 2018. 

Cargill will retain the rights to market the protein in North America.

Shaw said Cargill’s involvement gives Calysta a direct path to market: “We can guarantee major fish producers that we can deliver product to them as we now have the capital, the marketing expertise and the engineering know-how behind us.”

And he said the goal is to provide an alternative source of protein to supplement an expanding aquaculture sector. Calysta hopes to be producing 200,000 tons of FeedKind production by 2020.

FeedNavigator is running a free webinar on Thursday 6 October on alternative proteins for aqua and livestock feed. Join us as we hear from our expert panel on the pros and cons of single cell proteins, insect and algae meal as potential alternatives to fishmeal and soymeal. You can register for the live event here .

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