Calysta says gas to fishmeal replacement protein on path to commercialization

'We reckon it will become the gold standard in fishmeal replacement,' says Calysta CEO Alan Shaw © istock.com/MacXever

US natural gas conversion technology company, Calysta, is building a small scale production plant in the UK for its methane gas to feed protein — FeedKind — for use in fish and chicken diets as a fishmeal replacer.  

“The facility in Teeside, in the North East of England, will be operational by the end of this year. It is being set up as a pilot plant to develop product samples for industry but also for registrations beyond Europe, a market where the additive is already approved for sale.

We are particularly interested in securing a US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) registration. But, to do that, we need contemporary samples of the protein,” Alan Shaw, CEO of California based Calysta, told FeedNavigator.

FeedKind, said the US company, is a protein-rich biomass produced by a microbial culture with natural gas as sole nutrition and energy source.

Calysta acquired the technology when it bought Norway based BioProtein A/S in May 2014.

R&D site

The UK facility will produce around 5 to 10 tons of the product per year and will also allow R&D teams to develop “next generation” versions of the protein and to improve the production process. “We are placing a substantive bet on this product but the investments have been completely underwritten, and there is huge industry interest in this fishmeal replacer. We reckon it will become the gold standard in that regard,” he said.

Calysta initially looked at setting up the pilot production site in Norway, particularly as that was where the methane to feed protein project was born.

“The Norwegian developers definitely did all the heavy lifting on the FeedKind concept. However, we choose the UK location on the strength of a grant — £2.8m ($4.03m) — we were awarded under an initiative driven by the UK government’s regional growth strategy.

“Furthermore, the plant will be located at the Centre for Process Innovation (CPI) in Teesside so we can leverage the skill base there to get the facility up and running within less than 12 months, and, ultimately, those two factors dramatically reduce the risk involved in a project of this nature,” said Shaw, who has spent 15 years as an advisor on the UK’s Industrial Biotechnology Leadership Forum (IBLF).

The onus on the company, following the securing of the grant, is to ensure job creation in a region scarred by manufacturing facility closures in recent years.

The Calysta protein project is expected to generate up to 39 positions in science, engineering and operations, along with indirect jobs benefits in construction and the supply chain in that region in the UK. The company said it plans to locate a loop reactor adjacent, incorporating the US developer’s fermentation technology, to CPI’s existing biotechnology facility.

Further announcements about the commercialization of FeedKind can be expected in the coming weeks, added Shaw. Last March, the CEO told us the US firm was aiming to build an 80,000 ton per annum FeedKind production plant, with commercial volumes to be available in Q4 2017.

Feeding studies

As the process was developed in Norway, Shaw previously told us a lot of the feeding studies on the feed protein had been focused on industries relevant to that country such as salmon and other cold water aquaculture species. “But we are also seeing strong interest from swine producers, shrimp farmers, and pet food producers,” he said when speaking to us a year ago.

The product has been fed to salmon, trout, halibut, pigs and chicken. “It performed well in all species, but the data in salmonids and pigs were most exciting.  In Atlantic salmon it was shown to improve growth rates, improve nitrogen retention, and reduce inflammation associated with including soy products in the feed.  For pigs, it showed improvements in fat quality and freeze/thaw stability,” he said then.

A 2006 Norwegian Scientific Committee on Food Safety Opinion on the protein - BioProtein as it was called then - noted: ‘BP (BioProtein) and fish meal have more similarities in amino acid content than soybean meal. When the essential amino acids are summed up, BP and fish meal deviate 1-2%. BP has 16% (11% for fish feed) higher levels of essential amino acids than soybean meal."

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