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Trees-to-feed firm partners with university to develop salmon protein source

EniferBio produces a mycoprotein using a method which fell out of use when pulp production methods changed. Photo: EniferBio.
EniferBio produces a mycoprotein using a method which fell out of use when pulp production methods changed. Photo: EniferBio.

A Finnish company that has repurposed a disused method of making protein from forestry by-products so that it can be used in fish feed has teamed up with a Norwegian innovation centre to take the project forward.

EniferBio’s method of using a microfungus branded Pekilo to produce a single cell mycoprotein was originally developed by the forestry industry in Finland during the 1970s. The mycoprotein was the first of its kind to be commercialised and was used in feed for chicken and pigs on a large scale in the 1970s and 1980s. However, as the pulp industry developed, no more suitable side streams were being produced, and the last Pekilo plant closed in 1991.

Today, based on the methods from the 1970s, EniferBio has applied the process to fish feed production, using cheaper substrates and side streams from forestry for an economically viable process.

EniferBio is now teaming up with Foods of Norway, a Centre for Research-based Innovation (CRI) hosted by the Norwegian University of Life Sciences (NMBU), aiming to develop sustainable feed ingredients from local and renewable natural resources, including trees.

Professor Margareth Øverland: “EniferBio’s expertise fits perfectly into our value chain.
Professor Margareth Øverland: “EniferBio’s expertise fits perfectly into our value chain."

Cheaper substrates

“EniferBio’s expertise fits perfectly into our value chain”, said Foods of Norway’s centre director, Professor Margareth Øverland.

“They specialise in profitable and sustainable production of single cell protein from resources we have a lot of in Norway, our forests. Foods of Norway aims to develop technology that can contribute to a profitable production, and EniferBio produces single cell protein with cheaper substrates and side streams than we are able to today. Our new partner can help create the market we hope will be established for single cell protein as an ingredient in feed.

“I also believe that we can be a valuable partner for EniferBio, as we possess extensive knowledge and documentation of the nutritional value and beneficial health effects of single cell protein.”

Simo Ellilä:
Simo Ellilä: "We have improved the process and the product."

Know-how

EniferBio chief executive and chief technical officer Simo Ellilä said: “We already had the know-how and resources, and with new biotechnology we have improved the process and the product. A key enabler for this venture has been that we have been able to increase the protein content in the product.”

He explained how the company’s process, along with the availability of biorefinery side streams throughout Europe, could make an impact when it comes to self-sufficiency and reduce the need to import feed ingredients from other parts of the world.

“We want to develop our product towards fish feed, and Norway is the biggest salmon producer in the world. That is motivation in itself. But also, between the vast expertise in biorefinery and aquaculture among the centre’s partners, and with NMBU driving this as a high-level research institution, we are very excited to take part in the research in Foods of Norway,” Ellilä said.

Micro fungus

The mycoprotein process is based on using a fast-growing micro fungus highly tolerant to many growth inhibitors. The fungus converts organic substances into nutritious cell mass at high yield and productivity. The solution allows modern biorefineries to convert their underutilised side streams into single cell protein.

EniferBio recently announced the successful completion of process piloting trials and the beginning of testing Pekilo in salmon feeding trials at Skretting Aquaculture Research Centre (ARC) in Stavanger, Norway.