VTT, based in Finland, has developed a safe, environmentally sustainable and cost-effective method for mass production of high-value proteins, such as egg white, without using animals.
The European Association of Research & Technology Organisations EARTO announced VTT’s technology as a winner of the EARTO Innovation Awards 2020 competition, in the Impact Expected category on 28th October in Brussels.
VTT scientists forecast that food production based on microbial and cellular systems, i.e. cellular agriculture, will lead to a disruptive change that can be compared to the agricultural revolution from 1700 to the 1900s. Cellular agriculture uses microbes and bioreactors instead of fields and farmed animals.
The bioprocess developed by VTT is based on harnessing the Trichoderma reesei fungus, as it offers a safe way to produce food proteins without farming of livestock. The technology would eliminate the risk of salmonella and exposure to antibiotics, which are relevant to livestock and contribute to food chain sustainability by reducing the dependency on farming of animals. The production cost of the egg white protein produced by this method is estimated to be less than EUR 10 per kilo and is suitable for large scale (more than 300 000 litres) industrial production.
“The first calculations done by the University of Helsinki showed that producing egg-white protein in a cell factory generates around 75% less greenhouse gases and uses 90% less land than rearing chickens. The big change in land use is based on vertical rather than horizontal expansion. This frees up land for returning it to natural state or other than to agricultural use”, says Emilia Nordlund, Research Team Leader at VTT.
“So far, the production method has been tested by VTT in a 300-litre bioreactor, from which it can easily be scaled up for larger production units,” states Christopher Landowski, leader of VTT’s protein production team.
In the future, by applying biotechnical methods the properties of the egg white proteins can be further modified to improve their baking and foaming properties. The new technologies provide an opportunity to create novel functional proteins that can provide new eating experiences and sensations to the consumers.