Investors back KnipBio's alternative fish feed protein

© iStock/pichet

A new funding round will support KnipBio's alternative fish feed protein development and commercialization efforts, says CEO.

The Massachusetts-based company has just closed a Series B funding effort. Larry Feinberg, co-founder and CEO, said "up to $2m" has been generated. 

“It’s always good to have some gas in the tank,” he told FeedNavigator. “2017 is about de-risking, and 2018 is about commercialization.”

KnipBio has developed a series of naturally occurring microbes that convert low-cost feedstock into single-cell proteins (SCP) with pigment-enhancing carotenoids, aimed at fish nutrition.

The company is working to scale up its production levels of the protein source from kilogram batches to tons, along with continuing research trials and compiling an application for its SCP to be approved for use in the US.

“We’re humbled by the interest we’ve received, very encouraged and emboldened by that,” he said. “We must be sniffing out something right to garner that attention.”

Research and moving forward

The company is in the process of running a series of research trials using their SCP in feeds for different types of finfish and crustaceans, like Pacific white shrimp, said Feinberg. “There are so many tools available for making lots of strains, we’re constantly developing,” he added.

Research “is an ongoing activity – there are lots of iterations some of that occurs with the USDA and some with commercial partners,” he said.

The protein product is designed as an ingredient to replace or limit the need for marine-based fishmeal, he added.

“Palatability is pretty good,” he said. “We’re trying to figure out optimal inclusion rates and there are some variations still to be figured out.”

In addition to the research trials, the company is working to develop partnerships for manufacturing larger amounts of the product, he said. It also is planning to submit an application to register the product as a feed ingredient.

The longer-term goals include establishing facilities capable of manufacturing about 150,000 tons of the SCP product and a move toward initial commercialization in 2018, said Feinberg.

“We see these as different products,” he said. “They have different characteristics and they would be ingredients – maybe you want pigmented carotenoids in one or taurine in another – these would be different options for feed manufactures.”

Novel protein details

The single cell protein is being designed to generate required elements within a fish feed, said Feinberg.

“There are several value drivers,” he said. “Protein is one and, for certain diets, carotenoids – in this product we’re imaging there are two or three.”

“It’s a way to address more of the feed pellet real estate – so we can replace and be a source for other ingredients in that picture,” he said. “We don’t see it just as a straight protein replacement.”

It may not be used as a complete fishmeal replacement, but could be an option for reducing use of that product as there is a limited supply, he said. “Whether it’s a replacement or complement time will tell,” he added.

The use of a single cell protein in feed also may offer a way to reduce some of the inflammation vegetable-based ingredients can provoke, he said. “If you blend in single cell proteins then you have a healthier animal, and that we’re really excited about,” he added.

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