The ingenious Method to Create Food from Bacteria and Methane

Food, Bacteria, Methane

Our planet is inhabited by 7.6 billion people and it is estimated that by 2100 we will be 11.2 billion, according to recent data from the UN Department of Economics and Social Affairs.

Feeding such a population means a high cost to the planet.

One of the problems is that to create areas of cultivation – for plants for human consumption but also to produce food for animals – huge areas of tropical forest are deforested and water is used, a resource that is not left over.

However, a company of American origin assures that it is possible to create food for animals without needing to use land, fertilizers, pesticides or excessive water.

And that’s what the Calysta Company is doing in an industrial plant in northeastern England: producing animal food from bacteria that feed on methane gas.

“It’s a good naturally occurring bacteria that you find on the ground, and whose role in nature is to capture methane,” Alan Shaw, the company’s chief executive, told the BBC.

“Here we do it at the industrial level and the result is protein, something that the world desperately needs,” he added.

Food, Bacteria, Methane
In principle, the food is being used for fish, but the goal is to use it also in cows and other livestock (Source-BBC)

Fish Food

The idea is not new.

It was developed in the 1980s by a Norwegian company but later abandoned because the price of natural gas to run the fermenting machine was then too expensive for the project to be sustainable.

Calysta acquired the technology in 2014 and perfected the production process.

To create these futuristic foods, Calysta uses a bacterium called Methylococcus capsulatus, which grows in tanks fed methane.

After two weeks they get some pellets that they let dry and are ready for the animals.

The process has already been approved by the European Union, which states that these foods are safe.

At the moment they have only used to feed fish, but Shaw hopes in the future to feed also chickens, pigs, and other farm animals.

Shaw points out that the goal is not to replace conventional fish food but to provide an alternative source of protein.

If the production is done on a large scale, the process would significantly reduce the demand for farmland.

“If I know that I can be part of solving a very big problem for the world, I would very much like to have succeeded,” says Shaw.

Food, Bacteria, Methane
The plant is in Teesside, in the northeast of England (Source – BBC)

Non-renewable Resource

However, one of the criticisms that this proposal has received is that the methane it uses is a natural gas, which is a fossil fuel.

“I admit it’s not a great renewable source of methane, but over time we hope to replace it with methane from renewable sources,” Shaw explains.

The idea would be to take advantage of methane emissions from cows, and that is produced in the intestines of these animals as a result of the way they do the digestion.

Another possible source of methane, he explains, is to recover it from landfills.

Food, Bacteria, Methane
Shaw says he is proud of this product that reduces deforestation (Source – BBC)

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