Food production currently requires a large amount of natural resources, such as water, and extensive use of land area. Due to the expected global increase in population, along with the high demand for reducing the environmental impact caused by conventional agriculture, innovative solutions in food production are necessary. Indeed, the need to find alternative ways to produce animal-based ingredients has challenged the food industry, for example, the need to find alternative solutions for making high performance ingredients of chicken eggs. Therefore, VTT developed a way of producing food ingredients, such as egg white protein, using new biotechnology-based protein production technologies, also known as cellular agriculture. This technology provides a vital alternative to various animal and plant-based ingredients and makes the food value chain more sustainable, while introducing completely new food products. VTT has turned the complex chemistry of selected organisms into so-called “Cell Factories” and developed its own patent IPR. VTT has also exclusive license rights for different patents on critical improvements to the microbial production technologies.
VTT’s technology will enable food producers to decrease greenhouse gas emissions by up to 74% and land use by 90%**
The production cost of the egg white protein is estimated to be less than €10 per kg and is suitable for large scale industrial production (>300,000 litres)
The cost to produce egg white protein by Cellular Agriculture is competitive, when compared to the production costs of egg proteins from chickens
Rebuilding the food production chain
Almost all food industries use eggs, and thus, egg proteins dominate the protein ingredient market. Millions of tons of eggs are needed every year, from which a significant percentage goes to protein ingredient production. A profound change in the global food and agricultural systems is needed. A new approach to produce food ingredients with high nutritional value is vital to enable more sustainable and ethical food production and to find new business opportunities with better price predictability. The key solution for future food industry is to transform food production in a way that it will not be dependent on growing seasons or land availability. The disruptive change that cellular agriculture brings about can be compared to the agricultural revolution from the 1700s to the 1900s.
Producing egg protein in the lab
EARTO member VTT developed a unique technology, which enables mass production of many important food ingredients, such as high value proteins (e.g. egg proteins), without using animals and with low environmental impact. Bringing its long history and top-class expertise on industrial biotechnology, VTT’s egg protein production technology takes the manufacturing of food components a leap forward and decouples the food production from traditional agriculture. By developing a new cellular agriculture-based food business, VTT enables bringing various high value food ingredients to the market.
Huge business opportunities
VTT’s innovative cell factory technology represents a low-cost solution for egg white protein production and supports a sustainable food system, with new food ingredients of high nutritional value and low environmental footprint. VTT, being a key partner in the cellular agriculture domain, is currently developing the microbial production technology along with several leading start-up companies, and with its long-term research and licensing agreements. So far, the expected financial and commercial demand for cellular agriculture globally is extremely high. In this regard, VTT has negotiated new projects and licensing deals with two international companies worth at least €3.5 million. Thus, this is not only about chickens or about eggs; it is about creating completely new businesses to disrupt the food industry.
** The figures are obtained from preliminary calculations, and were done in collaboration with sustainability assessment experts from University of Helsinki.
The video of the innovation is available here.