Biofermenter and more



Apart from cultured meat there are further, exciting approaches, pointing to what future human nutrition could look like.


The gastro-oesophageal vestibules of ruminants show that it is possible to produce nutrients and agents, including essential proteins, out of cellulose, i.e. straw, hay, grass or foliage. Microorganisms in the gastro-oesophageal vestibules of ruminants have been doing this job for over 20 million years. They are then digested by the ruminants. Cattle can cover up to 80 percent of their protein requirements via microorganisms in the rumen. Seventy percent of grazing animals in the Sergengeti are ruminants, which shows the efficiency of this digestion process. Nature has other very successful examples.

The biofermenter-technology - currently still a vision - copies the above described process from nature. But compared to the feeding of grass and hay to cattle, the biofermenter-technology would be multiple times more efficient. This is because the metabolic losses during digestion in the cattle would be eliminated. The food chain would be shortened by one element. 

The concept is similar to that of "Single Cell Protein", but the target is to produce food for humans directly from cellulose. Currently there is not much research on this. The concept of the biofermenter-technology is thus very visionary! The technical obstacles are also widely unknown. The end products would be pure nutrients that could be used in food production. They will not resemble meat, dairy products or eggs and thus are placed in an extra category on the Future Food website. But the biofermenter-idea could revolutionize world nutrition.

The production could work as follows: In huge water filled silos or reservoirs, ecosystems of microorganisms (bacteria, funghi) are supplied with adequate gas mixes, minerals and micronutrients and initially also with warmth. The solution is kept in motion under electronic monitoring. Next, the nutrient medium is added: This could be freeze-dried cellulose pellets, coming cheaply en masse from species-rich grasslands. The excrements of the microorganisms could be used as fertilizer and the emitted methane for heating units. Biofermenters combined with phytoreactors for growing algae could make up interactive systems and a "zero-emission-nutrient-industry", because they are copies of ecosystems in modular design. These systems would be insensitive to climate change. The microorganisms are finally harvested and the nutrients are extracted from them and then further processed. The following video animation (copyright AKT) shows the principles:

The video animation shows an integrated system with a biofermenter (left, blue microorganisms) and a phytoreactor (right with green microalgae). "Endprodukte" (final products) are the excrements of the microorganisms. CH4 is methane, that is created when cellulose is metabolized. CO2 (carbon dioxide), that the microorganisms create in the fermenters is used in the phytoreactors for algae for photosynthesis, and is converted to "Nährstoffe" (nutrients) and oxygen (O2) there, which again is retransported to the fermenter and is used for the bacteria to grow. The nutrients cover proteins, carbohydrates, fats and oils, vitamins, minerals and micronutrients, depending on the combination of microorganisms and the origin of the cellulose material.

Further information from AKT, Peter Arras, "Cellulose - the new bread for the world".

AlgaVia/TerraVia has made experiments coming close to the described scenarios by producing algal oils and proteins from lignocellulosic sugars derived from multiple sources including switchgrass, forage sorghum, maple wood pulp, sugar beet pulp, corn-stover, sugarcane bagasse, municipal green waste, and loblolly pine.
At Biomar, proof of concept studies have been made to grow fungi on different crop residues (rice husks, mill residues, brewers spent grain, etc.), but nothing has been published yet.


Since 2013 there have been attempts to produce "real" milk and dairy products in the lab - without cows and any other animals. The companies Real Vegan Cheese and Muufri are two pioneers. More technological details can be found on the websites of these companies.