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Anuga FoodTec 2024 live: GEA’s perfusion tech drives alt-protein productivity and scalability

#Anuga FoodTec 2024 live: GEA’s perfusion tech drives alt-protein productivity and scalability

21 Mar 2024 — At the ongoing Anuga FoodTec 2024 in Cologne, Germany, Food Ingredients First speaks to Tatjana Krampitz, head of new food technology management at GEA, about the company’s innovative perfusion technology and how it helps manufacturers overcome scalability hurdles for alternative proteins or “new foods.”

With the world population set to reach the 10 billion mark in 2050 as per the United Nations forecast, alternative proteins are considered a sustainable route to feeding the rising numbers.

“We need to find new sources of proteins, since consumers are asking for sustainable products,” Krampitz tells us live from the show floor.

“For new foods, we have a plant-based area, one for cell-based and one for insects. Cell-based applications are focused on precision fermentation, which is a well-known technology, but what’s new is that we are now using microorganisms to make them produce, for example, whey proteins — which we can then use as an addition to the already existing market.”

“Alt-protein formulators can enhance their precision fermentation activities by using perfusion technology to “separate cells from the depleted nutrient solution, increasing live cell density and productivity.”

Packed cultured meat in a transparent box.GEA’s perfusion technology can help cell-based meat formulators enhance their production.Targeting resource efficiency
As the alternative protein advances place an “increasing premium” on highly efficient production processes, perfusion also aids productivity and resource efficiency in cell cultivation and precision fermentation for new food.

“What the market currently needs are reliable pilot plants that are quick to set up and meet industrial standards. Our single-use separators enable start-ups, in particular, to work under sterile conditions, which helps them surmount a major challenge.”

At the trade show, the international technology group is exhibiting an entry-level perfusion platform composed of the GEA Axenic P bioreactor and the GEA kytero separator for producing alternative proteins from microbial and cultured sources.

The bioreactor can be virtually modeled as a “digital twin” to track and optimize process conditions and cell behavior, while the separator prevents cross-contamination since the product-contact parts are replaced after use.

Propelling microbial growth
During precision fermentation in bioreactors, growth-inhibiting metabolites such as ammonium and lactate are formed in the culture medium. Removing them is essential to stimulate healthy and rapid cell growth in bioreactors.

Perfusion technology allows for a portion of the depleted nutrient solution to be continuously separated in a sterile manner to keep the cultures in optimum growth conditions.

GEA's separator equipment displayed at Anuga trade show.GEA kytero single-use separator is an entry-level solution for R&D and small-scale production in the new food.“Currently, a lot of processes are run in batch or fed-batch. This means you put the organism inside and it starts feeding. But since the organisms also produce inhibitors, you need to take them out because otherwise, the process has to stop quite early as they stop growing,” Krampitz explains.

GEA’s perfusion technology gives manufacturers the opportunity to “take out the viable cells together with the cell liquid” including the metabolites, to bring back the concentrated living cells to the bioreactor system to let them grow. This reduces inhibitors during processing.

“At the same time, we also take out the pollutants and metabolites and the bioreactor can stay longer in the sterile aseptic atmosphere.”

Perfusion also “significantly improves” productivity and cell density compared to conventional batch and fed-batch processes.

Reducing costs via re-use
Promising significant cost savings, perfusion is marketed as a “milestone” in leveling the price difference between conventional and new foods.

The technology allows bioreactors and the material flow to run continuously throughout the process chain, improving capacity utilization.

The method also holds major potential for media reprocessing — a significant cost factor in producing new foods and, in turn, the end products. The company hails re-using and purifying media as a way to reach “price parity” between conventional and new foods.

Edgar Muller, product manager of sales at GEA, tells Food Ingredients First that GEA’s bioreactor and separator systems aid in reducing growth times by mechanical separation based on the gravitational force. “We separate the cells from the media and feed them back the cells into the bioreactor.”

“The bioreactor is then filled up with the same amount of new media, as we feed away to the media recovery units to rework these media.”

GEA's booth at Anuga in Germany.GEA is looking to fast-track alt-protein innovations from the lab to commercial-scale manufacturing.Without the media, the microbial cells would stop growing and take longer before reaching the desired cell density inside the bioreactor than what manufacturers expect.

Sustainable production
Krampitz highlights the importance of perfusion technology for more sustainable production of alternative proteins: “If we were to transfer the production capacity requirements for new foods one-on-one onto conventional process lines, the resulting plants would be huge.”

Perfusion lets manufacturers grow cells in a much smaller space, which, she says, in the future will “blaze a trail” in reducing bioreactor sizes to lower both the quantity of stainless steel needed and the nutrient and cleaning media required.

Experts estimate that perfusion could result in the process technologies being scaled down by nearly 10% in terms of bioreactor size and media and space requirements, states the company.

By Insha Naureen with live reporting from Natalie Schwertheim at Anuga FoodTec 2024

This feature is provided by Packaging Insights’s sister website, Food Ingredients First.

To contact our editorial team please email us at
editorial@cnsmedia.com

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