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Asian investors participate in a new Series D funding round for Calysta's protein, $40m generated

US methane-to-protein facility takes step closer to production

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Aerin Curtis

By Aerin Einstein-Curtis

02-May-2017
Last updated on 09-May-2017 at 15:25 GMT2017-05-09T15:25:34Z

© Calysta
© Calysta

NouriTech, along with lead investors Calysta and Cargill, broke ground on the new, 37-acre facility last week.  

When completed, the new Tennessee-based facility is expected to be the largest gas fermentation operation production facility globally, said Cargill. The site will generate Calysta’s FeedKind protein feed ingredient.

The non-genetically engineered protein ingredient can offer a commercial-scale alternative for feed producers, said Allan LeBlanc, senior director and FeedKind product manager. “Produced via a proprietary fermentation, FeedKind protein is one of the few alternative proteins that can be produced at the scale this industry demands,” he added. 

Yesterday (1 May 2017) Calysta announced that it has generated $40m in Series D funding, in a financing round led by Mitsui & Co, based in Tokyo, Japan, along with Temasek, a Singapore-based investment company and current investors Cargill, the Municipal Employee Retirement System (MERS) of Michigan, Walden Riverwood Ventures, Aqua-Spark and Pangaea Ventures.

“Additionally, FeedKind protein helps maintain a healthy gut and immune system, which is critical when the aquaculture industry's biggest challenges are disease outbreaks. And the ingredient is cost competitive,” he claimed. 

The site is expected to see construction of the first phase end in 2018, with the plant coming online in 2019, said Cargill. The second, and larger, phase of construction is expected to end in 2020.

Market interest

Initial interest from the feed industry in the protein ingredient has been strong, LeBlanc told us.

“The industry is actively seeking natural, sustainable sources of protein that can help future-proof their supply chains,” he said. “FeedKind protein offers price, quality, and supply consistency that is rare within the feed industry.”

The California-based Calysta is looking to aquaculture feeds as an initial market priority, he said. “As a product that is approved for use in Europe, the salmon industry is a high priority for Calysta,” he added.

Ongoing research includes feeding trials to validate the ingredient’s use in feeds for shrimp, yellowtail and warm-water, finfish species, he said.

However, results suggesting that the protein ingredient may help maintain a health gut and immune system mean Calysta also is looking toward functional feeds, he said. “Other applications for FeedKind protein that are being developed include early livestock feeds and pet food applications,” he added.

Calysta's FeedKind forecast to be at commercial scale by 2019 © Calysta

Building project details

The location in Tennessee was selected in a joint project with Cargill, said LeBlanc. The site also offers access to several needed ingredients and was initially announced in November.

“It offered proximity to and availability of raw materials needed to make FeedKind protein, access to a highly trained workforce, and access to facilities for shipping the product domestically and internationally,” he said. Also, Cargill has had a corn oil processing and milling facility in Memphis for about 40 years.

“The nearly 70-acre Cargill facility offered NouriTech 37 acres, or approximately half of the site, as a location for the FeedKind plant,” he said. “In addition, existing infrastructure at the Cargill plant can be leveraged to support NouriTech.”

The methane involved in the process is set to be delivered by the municipality in Memphis, he said. “In addition to conventional pipeline sources, methane can come from renewable sources including municipal waste and anaerobic digestion,” he added.

“Currently, there is not sufficient natural gas available from biological sources to support large scale production of FeedKind protein,” he said. “As technology advances, NouriTech will explore use of methane captured from these renewable sources.”

FeedKind production

When completed, the facility is expected to generate about 200,000 metric tons of the protein ingredient annually, said Cargill.

The new location is set to include office buildings, 20 fermenters and multiple dryers, said Cargill. The initial phase of construction will build two of the fermenters and one drying facility.

It also will have about 160 full-time employees, the company said.

In addition to the Tennessee-facility, Calysta has a FeedKind production facility in northern England, said LeBlanc. However, that facility has been producing smaller amounts of the feed ingredient.

“The Teesside facility in northern England is a market introduction facility that is producing commercial samples for customer trials, additional regulatory approval, and value added product development as opposed to large commercial quantities,” he said.   

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