The Hong Kong-based technology company announced the opening of its second single-cell protein production facility in China on July 10. The plant was completed in partnership with Shandong Zhonggu Starch Sugar Co. and the facility is co-located on that company’s site.
iCell has another production facility in Taizhou, China.
iCell Sustainable Nutrition uses its technology to provide wastewater treatment for food and beverage manufacturers by repurposing nutrients to protein. The company has more than 50 patents globally regarding the production of single-cell proteins and the ingredient’s use in animal or plant nutrition.
The partnership with Shandong Zhonggu was of interest because of a byproduct generated during the corn refinement process, said Mark Rottmann, vice president, iCell Sustainable Nutrition Co.
“They have process sludge that they produce [and] we have the ability to convert it into a salable product,” he told FeedNavigator. The method used to generate the company’s single-cell protein ingredient converts the byproduct stream into a protein ingredient that can be used in feed.
Shandong Zhonggu generates about 3m tons of corn starch and related products annually. However, the corn refining facility produces more than 10,00 tons daily of nutrient-containing water, which has to be treated. That process costs about $300,000 annually.
The wastewater recycling process is expected to generate “economic value” of more than $3.4m a year, the iCell said.
“You don’t want to ship water,” Rottmann said of the two facilities co-location. “The nutrients in the water are low so you have to build the facility [on site].”
The new facility has already reached full production, but is going through regulatory review, said Rottmann. It is anticipated that the site will start commercial production in early autumn.
“We need to sell into a local market. Positioning factories in local markets reduces freight [costs].”
The single-cell protein production facility collects the “nutrient-rich water” generated by the Shandong Zhonggu facility, said Rottmann. Any wastewater used to feed the company’s bacteria has to come from a food or feed grain processing site.
“It has to be just process water,” he said. It can then be used to feed the aerobic bacteria needed to produce the single-cell protein ingredient during a fermentation process.
“Our bacteria eat the nitrogen, phosphorous and nutrients,” he said. Eventually, all the nutrient-containing wastewater generated by the starch refinery plant’s production process will come through the fermentation process, he added.
The system runs the waste-stream water through a series of patented technologies including rapid control fermentation, cell wall extraction, enzymolysis, and other processes, and the product generated is dried and sterilized, the company said.
iCell Sustainable Nutrition is part of the Shanghai Gentech Industries Group, a 1,000+ employee company with 18 locations across China producing and marketing a variety of food, feed, and ingredient products.
iCell purchased the intellectual property of US company, Nutrinsic, in 2016. The Colorado based Nutrinsic developed technology to upcycle nutrients in food and beverage process water, and it started collaborating with MillerCoors brewery. Nutrinsic founders Terry Seth and Andrew Logan remain closely aligned with iCell.