Unibio's plant opens in Kalundborg in Denmark and "marks a significant milestone in the company's development", it said in a press release.
"The crucial advantage of UniProtein is that the technology is scalable and environmentally friendly compared with fishmeal and soy protein," said Unibio CEO Henrik Busch-Larsen. "We can produce natural protein in a plant using methane gas, and therefore the production of UniProtein is not limited by fishing quotas or the use of pesticides, and it is weather-independent."
Unibio's technology thus provides animal feed producers access to a sustainable protein source of very high quality, he said.
The new plant marks the beginning of the product's commercial phase. It can produce 80 metric tons of the protein annually. It already has one licensee, which is constructing a UniProtein plant in eastern Europe with a view to producing thousands of metric tons per year. The company noted "potential customers from several regions around the world" have indicated interest in licensee agreements and JV partnerships.
"We now own the most up-to-date technology in the field of bacterial fermentation, the most novel technology used to convert methane into protein, and we have a strong cooperation with the Technical University of Denmark (DTU)."
Karen Haekkerup, CEO of the Danish Agriculture and Food Council, said that for several years Denmark has worked on finding alternatives to the soy which it imports currently. The hope is that Unibio can contribute to replacing soy in the long term.
Innovation Fund Denmark began supporting the development of UniProtein two years ago, at which time the support involved high risk and many unknown factors, said its vice president, Tore Duvold.
"Since then a lot has happened. Unibio is now ready to upscale the production of UniProtein by using a method that requires very little water and no pesticides, and is based on renewable energy. It holds great potential."
Unibio's single cell protein production technology is called U-Loop, and converts natural gas into a highly concentrated protein for sustainable food production, targeting the animal compound feed markets. UniProtein benefits from superior nutritional content and product characteristics, it claims. The protein-rich biomass (72.9% protein) can be used as a direct supplement in animal feed. Key product characteristics include the fact it is developed naturally without any genetic manipulation; has a long shelf life and stable production process; and has a high protein quality which allows for a more efficient diet with less quantities required, minimizing nitrogen excretion. It has already been tested as feed for salmon, calves, pigs and chickens, with positive results in terms of acceptance and growth rates, and it is approved by the EU as an ingredient in animal feed.
Unibio CEO Henrik Busch-Larsen and Prince Joachim of Denmark