Is the wood the answer to sustainable salmon feed?

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With demand of animal feed set to skyrocket, innovative companies like Arbiom are looking to one of nature’s most abundant resources. 

Arbiom’s technology transforms wood – one of the most readily available and organic carbon source in the world into intermediate materials for a range of applications, notably as a high-protein ingredient for aquaculture feed. SalmonBusiness talked to Emily Glenn, Arbiom’s Business Development Director, about the company’s journey from start-up to today.

The SYLFEED project – is looking to produce a rich source of salmon feed protein from wood.

The company was founded with the vision to maximise the value of wood, as a complex, chemically-rich, natural and renewable carbon resource which the company believed is not being used to its greatest potential, despite strong industrial supply chains. Headquartered in Durham, North Carolina, the agricultural-biotechnology company has offices in Paris, France and Norton, Virginia, where it operates a pilot plant.

Redefining the use of wood
Arbiom’s technology platform integrates pre-treatment and bioprocessing technologies with fermentation of an enhanced strain of torula yeast (Candida utilis) microorganism, which then is dried to a digestible, high-protein ingredient from wood. The company has a background in lignocellulosic pre-treatment and processing, and is able to extract wood hydrolysates as a highly-fermentable substrate (food) for single-cell proteins (SCP) microorganisms. The resut of which is SylPro – protein-rich ingredient which is currently undertaking trials to study its performance, nutritional value and digestibility for salmon.

“By redefining the use of wood and bringing it into the food chain, we see Arbiom’s technology as part of the solution to sustainably feed the world,” said Glenn “Arbiom is addressing the sharp increase in global protein requirements by producing an industrially-scalable protein ingredient from wood, requiring fewer resources and having less of an impact on the environment than fishmeal or soy.”

Read more: Are flies the future of sustainable salmon feed?

Understandably, leading salmon and aqua feed producers are interested, as well as the paper industry, who are looking to higher-value markets, so why start with salmon?

“Salmon is the early-adopter in innovation in aquaculture, so we are starting there. But SylPro has broad applicability for several other species thanks to its protein content (60%+), enhanced amino acid profile and high digestibility (92%),” said Glenn.

A tree falls in the forest
“Arbiom technology mimics what happens in nature – When a tree falls in the forest, for example, microorganisms, such as mushrooms, grow on it, feeding off the nutrients in the wood,” said CEO, Marc Chevrel, when asked about his vision. “Our technology is the similar process faster and at industrial-scale with a yeast SCP,” he added.

While the wood to food concept has been demonstrated at pilot scale, Arbiom is scaling-up its technology through SYLFEED, a European consortium of industry partners, aiming to demonstrate the entire “wood to food” value chain. The project funded in part by a €10.9M grant from the Bio-Based Industries Joint Undertaking under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme.

Paper waste
Millions of tonnes of paper every year goes to waste from the paper and mill industries, so it makes sense to look for viable, abundant, and even multi-sector solutions to animal feed production. The company is going to build a demonstration unit at the Norwegian-owned Norkskeskog paper mill in France’s Vosges area.

“The demonstration program will allow us to prove the viability of our technology and provide us with all the data we need to design a commercial scale plant,” added Chevrel.