Carbon-captured protein: Arkeon fights climate change with globally scalable ingredient tech
02 Jan 2023 --- Vienna-based Arkeon has received an additional €4 million (US$4.27 million) in capital to advance its CO2 utilization technology, which converts carbon dioxide into protein ingredients. To date, the company has accumulated over €10 million (US$10.69 million) in funding for its technology buildout, infrastructure expansion and product development, as it works to disrupt food production on a global scale.
Arkeon says that by producing functional, nutritious and environmentally sustainable protein ingredients, it can transition industries that require a lot of resources to low-emission systems.
“Our current focus is to scale up the amino acid production process with our archaea. The next concrete step is to realize a 150 L bioreactor operation in Q1 of 2023. The next bigger bioreactor (3000 L) is already in the conception phase. In parallel, preliminary work is already underway to produce tailor-made peptides from our amino acids,” a spokesperson from Arkeon tells NutritionInsight.
Additionally, the protein can be used as clean label ingredients for food and beverages, alternative proteins, flavors and aromas, supplements and cell culture media for cultivated meat, the company details.
Arkeon highlights that converting the high amount of greenhouse gas in the atmosphere into protein ingredients helps “the planet breathe a little easier” while giving carbon dioxide a “good name.”
“Our archaea microbes grow in a bioreactor. It’s similar to the steel tanks beer is brewed in. Like every living being, our microbes need a feedstock – raw materials – to produce our protein ingredients. That’s where our archaea are a little different. While most microbes we know from food production grow in liquid media [nutrient broth] containing lots of sugar, Arkeon’s microbes swim in a simple salt solution,” the spokesperson explains.
“They [the archaea] consume CO2 and secrete the products in the bioreactor. Our microbes don’t consume any oxygen – which is toxic to them – and instead, use hydrogen as their sole energy source. This is the second type of gas we bubble into our reactors. Our bioreactors continuously work, so we feed in the gasses and salts while harvesting our products.”
Using a one-step fermentation process [also called bioprocess], the company creates customizable protein ingredients with different functions without needing genetic engineering. The regenerative process converts CO2 into 20 proteinogenic amino acids.
“Using CO2 in our bioprocess is more than a revolutionary way to produce the protein ingredients essential for human health. It’s an important step toward a regenerative future,” adds Dr. Günther Bochmann, co-founder and CTO at Arkeon.
The spokesperson details that traditional protein production puts a big strain on animals, land and water.
“Agriculture greatly contributes to ecosystem degradation and greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change. Vegetarian and vegan protein sources, like soy and plant-based proteins, don’t rely on animals but still use a lot of land and water,” they say.
The patented fermentation technology converts CO2 with the help of archaea into complete and versatile protein ingredients such as amino acids and peptides – without using land, animals or large quantities of water.
“Arkeon bypasses conventional agriculture altogether. This fundamental shift provides an advantage, particularly given the climate change and temperature fluctuations impacting the agricultural sector. Our biological process allows the Earth’s ecosystems to regenerate while we nourish ourselves with the proteins so essential to human health,” the spokesperson adds.
Complete and versatile protein
For proteins to be considered complete, they must contain essential amino acids. Animal-sourced proteins such as meat, fish, poultry, eggs and dairy products are considered “complete proteins.”
Arkeon’s complete protein ingredient “contains all 20 amino acids humans need to live.”
“We currently make complete mixtures of amino acids. Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins that our bodies can absorb and use as energy sources. Arkeon’s one-step fermentation process produces all the amino acids we humans need in one go. The final protein ingredient can be added to just about anything,” underscores the spokesperson.
Out of the 20 amino acids, the nine essential amino acids are histidine, isoleucine, lysine, leucine, phenylalanine, methionine, threonine, tryptophan and valine. These must be obtained by food as the body cannot produce them independently.
NutritionInsight previously reported on a study spotlighting the benefits of amino acid supplementation in preventing dementia.
Meanwhile, the Arkeon spokesperson details that raw material supply is a critical limitation in the current economic environment.
“We have already experienced delivery delays, which can impede the scaling trajectory if not planned accordingly. Looking at the projections for 2023, we expect no significant improvement in this area and plan our developments accordingly,” they conclude.
By Beatrice Wihlander
This feature is provided by FoodIngredientsFirst’s sister website, NutritionInsight.
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