It works at lab- scale. However, it becomes very difficult to make efficient and robust recombinant organisms for industrial scale production. The production organism, process, substrate (bio-streams), production line must be developed and optimized together.
The CRISPR gene shears make it possible to cut and glue purposefully into the genome of a wide range of microorganisms. A technology that now allows molecular biologists to transfer the relevant synthetic genes identical to a ex. cows' genomes to a desired microbial host organism.
Scientists equip microorganisms with the genetic information to synthesize milk proteins. Like the beer brewing process — but instead of alcohol, microorganisms produce milk protein.
Microorganisms are provided with the right growth conditions –nutrients, pH, temperature– to produce milk proteins in the fermenters. When enough protein has been produced it is extracted, processed, ready to use in the food industry.
Alternatively, it is also possible to develop non-GMO processes based on the screening of naturally occurring organisms for their ability to produce proteins resembling those of animal-produced milk proteins.
Precision fermentation works for pharma and enzyme production on a commercial basis. However, food protein is bulk with a low product price. At present precision fermentation of food protein is a long way from a competitive price. However, production price usually goes down with scale, experience, and competition.
The efficiency of the present bio-reactors are low. Thus, we need bulk scale bio-reactors ex. 200-500 tons. This requires huge investments, knowledge, and control – bio streams, energy flow, optimization (heat, cooling, O2, CO2, N-sources, etc.).
We must be able to calculate climate contributions on precision-fermented proteins. It should be kept up against the costs (including subsidies, CO2, climate, pollution) of conventional animal proteins.
Presently EU regulation is very restrictive for bio-engineering food, which makes it difficult to address climate impact from food. We must modernize the EU regulation where we balance risks and benefits to meet the climate challenge.
Consumers will have skepticism, as precision fermentation protein is not part of our food culture. On the other hand, consumers will be interested in reducing their consumption of food of animal origin for the sake of climate, animal welfare and nutritional health.
We are facing a new paradigm in humanity's food supply, where cellular food production will become increasingly important. We believe that the transition could occur in 3 waves with breakthroughs in the following periods:
2020 - 2025 Plant based proteins
2025 - 2030 Microbial produced proteins (Network focus)
2030 - 2035 Stem cell-based meat and milk
Transition of our food system will meet resistance. Industries will change or disappear, as the food export, cattle population will decline, new bio-streams and business models will arise for agriculture. New side bio-streams will come from fermentation and can go further into a circular bio-economy.
The traditional food industry has limited insight into biotechnological production methods. Will it be the pharma industry that takes over the production of food? Will it be the bio-engineer who replaces the farmer?
Right now, there is a global race to secure the IPR on precision fermentation of food ingredients. The network will produce a "roadmap" for building a Danish cellular food production focused on milk protein.
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