As the global population approaches 10 billion by 2050, the need for sustainable sources of protein has become crucial. Unibio, a protein company based in Denmark and the UK, has developed an innovative technology that converts methane, such as natural gas and biogas, into protein through microbial fermentation. This groundbreaking method known as the U-Loop® technology has been developed over 20 years of research in cooperation with the Technical University of Denmark (DTU).
The process uses a microbe called Methylococcus capsulatus, which naturally feeds on methane gas. This microbe is found in lakes where the decomposition of dead plants and animals produces methane. The U-Loop® fermenter provides optimal growth conditions for the microbe, allowing it to double in number every two hours. After harvesting, the microbe is turned into biomass, which is then heat-treated to create a protein-rich granule called Uniprotein®.
Unibio’s Uniprotein® has numerous applications, including supplementing animal feed and potentially being used for human consumption. It contains 70% protein and has a comprehensive amino acid profile, making it a viable alternative to other protein sources such as soy and fishmeal. In fact, the land required to produce one ton of soy protein can yield 14,000 tons of Uniprotein®, reducing the need for deforestation and land conversion for soy cultivation.
The demand for fishmeal, another common protein ingredient in animal feed, has reached its sustainability limit due to climate change and overfishing. Unibio’s Uniprotein® offers a sustainable and scalable solution to this problem. It can be used in aquaculture as a substitute for fishmeal, providing all the necessary amino acids for optimal animal nutrition.
Unibio’s CEO, David Henstrom, emphasizes the importance of investing in novel food sources to ensure future food security. Unibio’s technology offers promising results in improving food safety and security, but it requires significant investment to establish production facilities globally. The company has received a $70 million investment from the Saudi Industrial Investment Group to expand its operations and meet the growing demand for protein, particularly in aquaculture.
Unibio aims to increase its annual capacity to over a million tons in the next decade, working with partners in regions abundant in methane or biomethane. Through this sustainable protein source, Unibio hopes to contribute to feeding the world’s growing population while minimizing the environmental impact.
– Unibio website
– Technical University of Denmark (DTU) research