From one-third to one-half of all the corn and soybeans grown in the world now go to feed cattle, hogs and chickens. But what if those grains are needed to feed the 9 billion people expected on the planet by 2050?
Yes, the world has 33 years to answer that question. (Actually, the debate has already begun with some activist groups asking why so much of those crops are going to animal agriculture when an estimated 800 million people go to sleep hungry every night?)
Meanwhile, a new company, NouriTech and its lead investors, Calysta, Inc. and Cargill, are working on a potential answer that uses Calysta’s proprietary technology to produce a new protein that promises to be both a nourishing and sustainable feed ingredient for fish, livestock and pets.
Company representatives were joined by state and local officials at a ground-breaking ceremony for a new $660-million facility that will produce the new protein on a 37-acre site at the President’s Island complex in Memphis, Tenn. When completed in 2020, the plant’s gas fermentation process is expected to produce 200,000 metric tons of the protein annually.
“NouriTech is an important name for us,” said Doug Sheldon, managing executive and chief operating officer of the new entity. “We’ve kind of held back on sharing that name. NouriTech is a derivative of two words – nourishing and technology.”
Methane as a feedstock
NouriTech’s initial product will be Calysta’s FeedKind protein. Unlike most of Cargill’s products, which have involved corn, soybeans, wheat and other grains, FeedKind will have methane as its feedstock.
“FeedKind protein is a new sustainable feed ingredient that is critical to helping meet sharply rising global demand for food,” said Alan Shaw, Calysta president and CEO. “We are delighted to partner with Cargill and the Memphis community to launch construction at NouriTech of our first commercial scale manufacturing plant.”
Initially, the plant will produce 20,000 metrics tons annually. When expansion is complete, it is expected to produce 200,000 metric tons of FeedKind protein annually from methane, a gas that occurs naturally in feedlots, dairy and other confinement facilities and in rice fields all over the world.
“Our process is a biological process,” said Josh Silverman, chief product and innovation officer for Calysta. “We have an organism that eats methane in the same way that yeast eats sugar. Right now we get our methane from natural gas because that’s the most abundant and scalable way for us to get it.”
But there are a number of sources of methane which Calysta could tap. “It comes from the degradation of plant-based materials, farm wastes, you can put it in an anaerobic digester, manure produces methane naturally,” says Silverman
Cheap source of energy
“A lot of places are trying to capture that right now, and they generally and only use it for its energy value. They burn it; they get some heat; maybe some electricity, which is actually very cheap in the country right now.”
Dr. Silverman said Calysta and NouriTech’s process will take that methane, “which is now waste, at best, and convert it into a high-protein animal feed ingredient, which could be fed back to the livestock that are already on the farm. Dairy farms, for example, would be a great opportunity. We have lots of methane being produced, and you have lots of feed going to the cattle who are right on site.”
The new manufacturing facility, which will be located within the 69-acre tract currently occupied by Cargill on President’s Island, will provide approximately 160 new, higher-paying jobs in an area that needs them.
“Today’s groundbreaking is an important milestone for this project and our Cargill Memphis campus as it demonstrates our ongoing commitment to Tennessee, Shelby County and Memphis and has expanded our pledge to aquaculture as an increasingly important source of food,” said Cargill Managing Director Mike Wagner.
State and community representatives spoke at the ceremony, including Tennessee Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bob Rolfe; Shelby County Mayor Mark H. Luttrell, Jr.; Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland; and Greater Memphis Chamber President Phil Trenary.
Welcome to Tennessee
“It is great to see NouriTech break ground on its new Memphis facility,” said Rolfe. “The company announced plans in November 2016 to locate its new manufacturing facility in Shelby County and create many news jobs, and it is exciting to see NouriTech start the process of building this new facility.”
NouriTech’s 37-acre site will feature:
- A one-story administration building that will house technicians, engineers, supervisory and management staff.
- Twenty fermenters, each similar in size to a football field end zone. Two fermenters are expected to be installed in the first phase of construction and up to an additional 18 in the second phase.
- Several dryers, each approximately the height of a six-story building. One dryer will be built and used for the first phase of construction and the remaining dryers will be built in phase two.
- Several kilometers of piping.
- Various processing, filtration and product handling and loading equipment.
Calysta, based in Menlo Park, Calif., is a relatively new name in agriculture. Calysta develops and commercializes FeedKind® protein, a sustainable, traceable alternative feed ingredient for fish, livestock and pet nutritional products.
For more information on Calysta, visit http://calysta.com/