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Single-cell proteins to tackle aquafeed’s carbon footprint

dsm-firmenich recently entered the SCPs arena and aims to achieve a near-zero carbon footprint.

20_DSM Louise Buttle NASF
Louise Buttle
April 15, 2024

One of the main topics discussed at the North Atlantic Seafood Expo (NASF) was sustainability and raw materials for aquafeeds. Single-cell proteins (SCPs) are one of the alternatives to tackle both issues.

In 2023, dsm-firmenich announced it is developing new SCPs for aquafeeds. At NASF, Louise Buttle, Sustell lead for Aqua & global key account manager, unveiled some new details of the company’s Smart Protein project.

“dsm-firmenich has different single-cell hosts of natural-selected bacteria, yeast and fungi. Those hosts can use a range of different feedstocks. We know that they can work on sugars in a standard fermentation, however, we don't want to use sugars due to the land use and biodiversity impact. Our ultimate goal is to use waste streams or byproducts to produce carbon one to carbon six sources of feedstock, and that process would be run by renewable energy,” Buttle explained. “Our strain is a flexitarian, meaning that it can use a variety of feedstocks, which is fantastic news because it means you have flexibility on feedstock sourcing and can have a global orientation towards location. .”

“We have also done a life cycle assessment study looking at these different sources and in the long term, we can get to a footprint of less than 1 kg CO2e/kg of product. It would have a massive potential in minimizing the footprint of aquafeeds,” Buttle stated.

The company’s strategic approach is to deliver 80% protein and it has already achieved 70% protein content at its Bioscience Center in Delft, the Netherlands.

The team tested two of the strains with up to 20% inclusion in rainbow trout at the company’s screening facility in Village-Neuf in France. Similar performance was found in growth and weight gain. “An interesting trend observed was that SCPs had some functional benefit as well as an optimal protein digestibility,” Buttle said.

Currently, the company is planning upscale trials with Atlantic salmon at different inclusion levels. “The opportunity with the salmon market and Norway is that Smart Protein will widen the raw material basket and can either replace or complement ingredients. We also look at applications in shrimp and other marine species,” Buttle said.

“The industry is just starting to recognize that while omega-3s are essential, so is protein. If the industry continues to grow, it also needs to reduce its footprint and proteins with lower footprint contributions are key to reducing Scope 3,” Buttle stated.

SCPs require large investments and time to achieve commercial volumes, but the company is working on having volumes for customers to make application trials and will work towards having tonnes available in the short term. “The important thing is that we have an ambition for scale at an affordable price. dsm-firmenich has the right experience and history to be able to deliver,” Buttle concluded.