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Arkeon partners with ICL to transform CO2 into proteins

January 22, 2023
Food & Drink

Arkeon is allying with specialty mineral giant ICL to support the scaling of its fermentation bioprocess that converts CO2 into the 20 proteinogenic essential amino acids needed in human nutrition. The process, hailed as carbon negative, is based on the use of archaea, a group of microorganisms that naturally feeds off the greenhouse gas.

Arkeon has patented a process in which archaea – highly resilient single-celled microorganisms – feed on CO2 and convert it to protein without any genetic engineering. The resulting alternative proteins are customizable and clean label functional ingredients.

Through the partnership, Arkeon will have access to ICL’s labs in Israel and to the logistical support of a multi-billion company amid a volatile market.

“Raw material supply is a critical limitation in the current economic environment. We already experienced delivery delays in the past, which can impede the scaling trajectory if not planned accordingly,” an Arkeon spokesperson tells FoodIngredientsFirst.

Regenerative breakthrough
According to the Austria-based start-up, the carbon-negative process to create proteins requires 99% less land and 99% less water compared to conventional agriculture, plant-based or animal-based.

“Our team has harnessed proficiencies in microbiology and gas fermentation to create an entirely new regenerative food-production system,” says Gregor Tegl, co-founder and CEO of Arkeon.

“Arkeon has achieved a major breakthrough by finding a way to nourish people and revitalize our ecosystems at the same time,” adds Hadar Sutovsky, VP of external innovation at ICL and general manager of ICL Planet.

Arkeon uses a 150 L bioreactor and plans to expand to a 3000 L one. Moreover, the company is working on producing tailor-made peptides from amino acids.

“The assumption is that per 1 bioreactor 1000 m3 size, tech can be expected to convert thousands of tons of CO2 into hundreds of tons of amino acids and single cell protein biomass,” the spokesperson explains.

For every 30 kg of CO2 generated in animal-based foods, plant-based would be around ten times more sustainable and produce about 3.5 kg of CO2. In comparison, Arkeon’s process would generate -0.37 kg of CO2 (absorb that amount).

Investor support
ICL, a global specialty minerals company, has provided Arkeon with €2.75 million (US$2.98 million) and will partner with the business to develop CO2-derived protein ingredients for food applications.

“Although a young company, Arkeon brings to the table innovative and sustainable technology for use in creating the next generation of alternative protein products. They also fully align with ICL Food Specialties growth strategy of pursuing new frontiers in unique and functional alternative proteins,” explains Rado Sporka, VP of the food specialties commercial business for ICL.

“We are able to offer our advanced infrastructure, extensive experience and accrued insights, plus market and related regulatory support. We look forward to working with this start-up to unlock a whole new food category based on Arkeon’s protein discovery, which is not dependent on land and requires minimal use of water, providing it with a limited ecological footprint,” he continues.

“ICL’s support and partnership will be instrumental in helping us scale our archaea-derived protein production capabilities,” adds Tegl.

Pioneering proteins
As the global demand for proteins increases along the global population, food companies tap into the increased need to generate new macronutrients. Moreover, the search for environmental sustainability, animal welfare and health benefits drives the need to create improved alternative proteins.

In a similar vein, FrieslandCampina Ingredients is harnessing Triplebar Bio’s specialized biotechnology capabilities to develop and scale up the production of cell-based proteins via precision fermentation.

Meanwhile, insect protein keeps landing funding. Last week, Singapore-based start-up Protenga received additional funding for its insect protein technology platform.

Last October, a breakthrough microbial protein-rich powder “made from thin air” using CO2 and electricity – containing all the essential amino acids – received approval to be used across various food applications in Singapore.

By Marc Cervera


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