Cali company seeks to turn CO2 into fishmeal alternative for feed

By Aerin Einstein-Curtis

- Last updated on GMT

© istock/NicoElNino
© istock/NicoElNino

Related tags Feed Carbon dioxide Fishmeal

NovoNutrients is working to scale up production of a fishmeal replacement product generated from microbes, says company founder.

The company was initially more focused on work with biofuel generation, but has pivoted to animal feed and feed ingredients, said Brian Sefton, chief technology officer with NovoNutrients.

“Compared to the products we sell against, like fishmeal, we have a shorter supply chain,” ​he told FeedNavigator. “Our shelf life is much longer than fishmeal but we also can benefit from having a shorter supply chain.”

The product may offer a long-term hedge for aquaculture producers who are able to access fishmeal at times but find it harder to acquire in other years, said Sefton. “Aquaculture likes to have a consistent supply for its protein ingredient and that’s one of things that we can supply,”​ he added.

Additionally, as aquaculture is a rapidly growing marketing, the demand for protein meal may outpace amounts of fishmeal available, he said.

The initial product being produced is intended to be a “drop-in”​ replacement for fishmeal, said David Tze, CEO of NovoNutrients. “The feed manufacturer may have to make slight alterations but minimal changes to the process,”​ he added.

The single-cell protein meal also may offer an alternative protein for poultry and swine feed the company reported.

The scale-up process

The company is in the process of scaling up, but is not releasing an expected timeline at this point, said Tze.

“We came out of the lab with a prototype,”​ he said. “We’re a feed ingredients company, but the other way to look at us is as a biotech company – there’s a conventional process for scaling up.”

The next step for the process is to establish a pilot scale facility to produce larger amounts of the product, he said. Initial plans are to locate the plant in Sunnydale, California – near the existing headquarters – but that could be open to change.

The eventual site of the scaled-up facility will need access to renewable energy, feed stocks for the microbes and aquaculture feed markets, he added.

Feed ingredient generation

The production process uses carbon dioxide and hydrogen to feed microbes that can produce a high-protein product in hours, said Sefton.

“Microalgae is interesting, but the difference is our microbes grow faster than microalgae and they’re more streamlined and efficient,”​ he said. “It’s a continued process not a batch process – this is a continuing process – continuous feeding of the feed-in stock and continuous take off of the feed product.”

Processing the feed ingredient is a straightforward method that involves dewatering, sterilizing, texturizing and then shipping either in a package or bulk to the customer, said Tze.

Additionally, the meal is heat stable and does not need special handling, and the amino acid range is similar to fishmeal, said Sefton.

The product also lacks some of the negative elements that fishmeal may collect like mercury or heavy metals, he said.

However, adding levels of EPA or DHA to the diet would have to be addressed by feed formulation, said Tze.

From NovoMeal to NovoCeutricals

The bacterial process is already being used to generate trial amounts of the NovoMeal, said Tze. The group has done initial palatability tests on the product.

When looking at areas in the aquaculture market the focus is on shrimp and some of the carnivorous species including salmon, seabass and seabream, he said.  

Additionally, a similar process is being developed to focus more on the production of feed additives, he said.

The plan for NovoCeutical products will be to offer amounts of carotenoids, fatty acids, vitamins, probiotics, prebiotics or other high-value ingredients, said Sefton. However, the product is not as developed as the protein meal.   

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