Special Edition: Novel Proteins

Danish Agro tests alternative protein in piglet feed

By Jane Byrne

- Last updated on GMT

Unibio's single cell protein © Unibio
Unibio's single cell protein © Unibio

Related tags Single cell protein Danish Agro sustainable piglet

Feed manufacturer, Danish Agro, is trialing Unibio’s single cell protein (SCP), Uniprotein, in pig diets.

Arne Ringsing, product manager, Danish Agro, sees Uniprotein as a promising efficient, sustainable protein source with a favorable nutrition profile. “We have already begun the first palatability trials involving piglets of different ages.”  

That trial work is part of a Danish research project, funded to the tune of €1.3m by the Green Development and Demonstration Program, an initiative run by the Danish Ministry for Food, Fisheries, Equal Opportunities and Nordic Cooperation. The goal is to validate and optimize the nutritional and functional properties of Uniprotein when used in feed for salmonids and piglets.

Pig trials will be ongoing this year and are set to terminate in 2021, Ringsing told us. 

Beyond Danish Agro and Unibio, the other partners in this government backed research project are DTU Aqua, BioMar, and the University of Copenhagen. 

Earlier studies in salmonids and piglets have indicated that Uniprotein may improve growth and intestinal health and reduce nitrogen and phosphorus excretion, said Unibio. It touts its product as an alternative to “overexploited protein sources such as fishmeal or land-based soy concentrate products."

The research initiative runs through to 2022. Dissemination of results will take place on an ongoing basis.

Environmental credentials 

Uniprotein is produced using methane as feedstock in Unibio’s U-Loop fermenter, which was developed in cooperation with the DTU. When using biomethane or waste gas, Unibio claims its SCP will have low CO2 emissions.

The biotech company argues that its technology enables venting and gas flaring to be reduced as it utilizes an environmentally harmful gas in the production of its single cell protein product. 

“By using 200 million m3 of natural gas for fermentation and production of SCP instead of flaring it, a 52% reduction in CO₂ emissions is achieved​,” explains John Villadsen, professor emeritus, DTU chemical engineering department.

Citing data from the World Bank, Unibio noted that nearly 140 billion cubic metres (5.3 trillion cubic feet) of natural gas are being flared and vented annually by the oil industry. Gas flaring has a global impact on climate change by adding about 400m tons of CO₂ to annual emissions, it says/ Fewer than 20 countries account for more than 70% of gas flaring and venting. And just four countries together flare about 70 billion cubic metres of associated gas, it added.

The gas flared annually is equivalent to 25% of US gas consumption, 30% of EU gas consumption, or 75% of Russia’s gas exports. The gas flared yearly also represents more than the combined gas consumption of Central and South America, reported Unibio.

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