US microbial protein innovator NovoNutrients moving into carotenoid production
After successfully producing carotenoids at a 1% weight percentage and in kilogram quantities, NovoNutrients is starting to scale up production to metric ton quantities, positioning the company to be a major player in the global carotenoids market, which is forecast to be worth US€2.3bn by 2027.
Trial work is set to get underway: “We are about to establish letters of intent and other agreements that will lead to carotenoid trials for pet food, shrimp, and finfish,” David Tze, CEO of NovoNutrients, told us.
Carotenoids function as antioxidants and are natural pigments found primarily in plants and marine organisms. Specific carotenoids offer additional palatability and other benefits to humans, dogs, cats, and fish, contributing to good vision, immune system function, and overall health.
“We know from existing studies that carotenoids matter for the appearance, health, and growth of shrimp, salmon, and egg yolks,” added the CEO.
The developer expects to be producing commercially relevant amounts - hundreds or thousands of tons - of both basic single cell protein (SCP) and carotenoid-enhanced SCP from 2025 onwards. “We need to scale up our systems to those levels.”
NovoNutrients' synthetic biology platform is also poised to transform a series of markets beyond carotenoids. “As a low-cost biomass producer at scale, we see the food and feed additives markets as ripe for our subsequent Novoceutical-enhanced SCPs, be they vitamins, enzymes, tailored amino acid profiles, colorants, or other biochemicals that are in use today. Eventually, we can also introduce novel additives and application-specific bulk proteins.”
Aquaculture, though, has the most urgent need for economical and sustainable high-performance protein alternatives, said Tze. “The shrimp and finfish industries are showing substantial interest, as evidenced by the various companies that have or will soon evaluate our material in ever larger feeding trials and more substantive agreements.”
Oakbio Inc doing business as NovoNutrients has raised around US$14m to date. In July 2021, Happiness Capital, a Hong Kong based VC firm, invested US$4.7m in the startup, supporting its industrial pilot program. Furthermore, non-dilutive project funding from corporate partners, including a Catalyst Grant from Chevron Technology Ventures, proved a critical accelerator
“We will be raising more shortly,” confirmed Tze.
NovoNutrients’ primary partners, the owners of plants using its technology, run industrial sites where CO2 and hydrogen is generated; such emitters are actively seeking to decarbonize their operations.
“We have reached an agreement with large emitter. We are engaged in advanced discussions with several others to secure project financing and we expect to make more announcements in the coming months.
“Economical access to hydrogen is a key factor in our scale-up efforts, and the conventional wisdom is that technical advances, scale, and government interventions will further enable the development of green hydrogen, which is preferred in order to maximize our carbon benefit," said the CEO.