Microbial Protein: a promising and sustainable food and feed ingredient

Food production has a huge impact on the environment. Protein production via animals – meat – has a huge footprint in terms of CO2 emissions as well as land and water use (e.g. 1 kg of beef produces more than 20 kg of CO2, requires around 2 ha of land and around 15.000 litres of water). Especially imported feed materials, such as soy, threatens natural resources and biodiversity. Because of these massive environmental impacts, there is a need for a transition towards more sustainable protein sources for feed and food. Plant-based proteins can provide a more sustainable and well-known alternative. In addition, also other alternative protein forms are coming up, one of them is microbial protein.

Microbial proteins are proteins produced by micro-organisms via fermentation of carbon and nitrogen-containing substrates. They provide significant impact savings in terms of land and water use (e.g. up to 98% of water savings) and, dependent on the carbon and energy source, can also make a positive contribution in terms of carbon footprint. CO2 or CCU-based chemicals like green methanol, ethanol or formate can serve as carbon substrate for the micro-organisms converting them to microbial proteins. These microbial proteins can then be used as a component of feed (animal food) or even in food applications as a meat replacer. Quorn® for example is an already commercially available protein source produced by fungi, also called a mycoprotein.

Different types of microbial protein, produced by micro-algae, bacteria and yeasts

The North Sea Port area provides several opportunities for the production of microbial proteins: the presence of CO2 point sources and ongoing and planned projects to produce green methanol and ethanol that can be used as a substrate; a largely present feed and food production industry in the region and in Flanders; local presence of companies that can provide conversion technologies (like Avecom and others) and expertise for research and scaling up at institutions like Ghent University, CAPTURE and Bio Base Europe Pilot Plant. The City of Ghent is renowned for long with its food strategy, just think of initiatives like ‘Thursday Veggieday’.  Next to that the Flanders area with a big livestock production is in search of sustainable proteins as a feed source. All these factors make the Ghent and North Sea Port area a globally unique location for the production and promotion of microbial proteins. Let’s make the region a worldwide hotspot for microbial protein production and consumption, together with North-CCU-Hub!