The companies signed a joint development agreement (JDA) on April 23 to explore new fermentation processes using ethanol and ethanol production process co-products.
The Kansas-based engineering company is a respected one that has a history of working with fermentation processes in the biofuel space, said Larry Feinberg, CEO of KnipBio.
There are several parallels between ICM's work in biofuel production and its pending R&D efforts in relation to the production of KnipBio's single cell protein (SCP), he said. Corn ethanol plants also use fermentation and one of the primary co-products of the process is an animal feed ingredient – dried distillers grains.
Along with the process development work, ICM is investing in the biotech company and will have a representative on KnipBio’s board of directors.
“The strategic rationale for investing and working with KnipBio is clear – aquaculture needs new sources of traceable, sustainable, and resource-efficient protein,” said Steve Hartig, VP of technology development with ICM. “We believe KnipBio’s premium single cell protein technology could play a central role in meeting this need. Alternative proteins for aquaculture will be a multi-billion dollar market and this process enables the US ethanol industry new opportunities for growth.”
Perfecting the process
The initial partnership with ICM is set to run for a year, said Feinberg. However, there could be an option of continuing the relationship after that point, he told us.
Work on the JDA will be conducted at KnipBio’s research center in Lowell, Massachusetts and at ICM’s research facility and pilot plant in Missouri.
Through this tie-up, Feinberg said KnipBio expects to progress from lab scale to commercial demonstration levels.
The research and development aspect of the JDA will focus on scaling up fermentation, improving production economics, optimizing unique processes for different SCP products, and testing the viability of using ethanol-related streams as a fermentation feedstock
“We’ll definitely use more than one strain [of the single-cell protein] to demonstrate the robustness of the process and we want to get more of the product,” he said. “There is a research component, but we’re [also] doing market testing – it’s for multiple applications, market adoption, and R&D and product refinement.”
KnipBio is still anticipating the start of commercial-scale production in 2019-2020, following a market seeding year in 2018-19, he said.