Today the United Kingdom announced a total of nine projects that will receive a total of £24 million (~$30 million USD) in funding to help accelerate the advancement of zero-emission farming and greater food sovereignty within the UK.
The organization leading the overall effort is UK Research & Innovation (UKRI) under what is called the Transforming Food Production challenge. Per today’s announcement, the challenge “aims to set food production systems on the trajectory to net zero emissions by 2040 producing food in ways that are more efficient, resilient and sustainable.”
One of the new projects that will receive funding is called REACT-FIRST, a consortium led by air protein startup Deep Branch Biotechnology. REACT-FIRST will build a scalable route towards protein generation using CO2 inputs and a process generally described by the industry as gas fermentation. The initiative will be comprised of 10 industry and academic partners that will essentially build out a research and scale protein value chain around Deep Branch’s technology.
This value chain and its various partners will look something like the graphic above, which was provided by REACT-FIRST. In this new scaled value chain, Drax, a single-site renewable energy generator will provide captured CO2 and Deep Branch’s technology will convert it to into a novel single-cell protein called Proton.
From there, the Proton SCP will either be converted to fish or poultry feeds with the help of BioMar (large aquafeed producer) or AB Agri (large poultry feed producer). Researchers from the University of Stirling and Nottingham Trent University will work on nutrition assessment. Retailer Sainsbury and others develop ways to scale the production of this new feed.
Deep Branch is one of a small cohort of new startups that have launched over the past few years focused on developing protein using a process called gas fermentation (check out Spoon Plus report on the topic here). Others include Air Protein, Solar Foods and NovoNutrients. Last year, the European Space Agency started working with Solar Foods to develop the technology for use in space to feed astronauts.
Other projects within this broad initiative from the United Kingdom include everything from autonomous robotic farming systems (Robot Highways led by Saga Robotics) to hydroponic grow systems (Production at the Point of Consumption led by Evogro) to new algae grow systems for food production in deserts (AGRI-SATT led by Feed Algae). Each project consists of a funding for research and a variety of partners to help accelerate the time to market and scaling of the technologies.