From waste to protein: animal feed

A new research project will develop a novel technology to convert organic waste to feed protein production. The Innovation Fund has invested 10.7 million DKK in the project.

Food wastes and residues arising from agriculture are either not properly utilized or only used for electricity and heat production. Therefore, the new project proposes to convert them to a much more valuable product, namely animal feed. In this technology the organic matter in waste is firstly biologically converted to methane and the nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus contained in waste are extracted by a novel electrochemical method. Secondly, both the methane and nutrients are used as input to ferment a nutritious bacterial biomass with a protein content up to 70%.

This biomass is an excellent source of proteins with a high content of essential amino acids that can substitute other animal feed sources such as soybean meal, which is mainly imported and has a negative environmental impact.

The project takes off after long-term tests and development, and the project participants are now very optimistic about the goal.

 - The PROFIT project will create socio-economic and environmental value as it will contribute to the development of sustainable solutions, create new types of jobs and promote Danish research institutions and technology consultancy as pioneers in technology for green transition. The solutions have the perspective to generate a business model based on the recovery of nutrients existing in food waste streams. There is no doubt that this will be a milestone for Danish feed and waste treatment sectors’ innovation, says Irini Angelidaki, who is Project Coordinator at DTU Chemical Engineering.

Currently, there are no efficient systems capable of integrating organic waste treatment, biological methanation, nutrient recovery and microbial protein production for animal feed. The project therefore aims to develop such an integrated technology platform. The value proposition of the project will derive from the sustainable supply of protein ingredients.

The potential for the new and sustainable technology for protein production is huge, as the world is seeing an ever-increasing demand for animal feed these years.

DTU Chemical Engineering has over a number of years built up competences in relation to resource recovery/feed production and is further supplied with technology from Unibio A/S, which has extensive experience with the protein production at larger scale.

The project brings together collaboration between DTU, Unibio A/S, Knowledge Hub Zealand, Amager Resource Center, The City of Copenhagen and Roskilde University. Together, the partners will develop a sustainable solution for protein production from waste resources that considers economic viability, environmental care, and social cohesion.