Protecting the oceans through sustainable food production

The world population is growing rapidly. Feeding the soon to be 10 billion people is becoming an increasing challenge. Traditional animal husbandry, fishing and aqua farming still meet the need for animal proteins. How can proteins be produced in a sustainable way as part of a high-quality diet in the future? The research and development of innovative and marketable production technologies is in full swing worldwide. Promising products are emerging from what is known as cell-based agriculture. The best known of these is meat cultivated in cell culture.

The production of cultured meat and fish products: a challenge

In the production of cultured meat, animal stem cells are combined with the appropriate nutrients, salts and growth factors and set up in bioreactors for proliferation. This method is also being promoted to produce fish protein for fish dishes. New technologies should make it possible to grow animal cells on a large scale in an economically and ecologically sustainable way. Without overfishing the oceans, without heavy metals and microplastics, but with the same nutritional value as ordinary fish.

There are still a few hurdles to be overcome before many products of so-called "cellular agriculture" are ready for the market, especially with regard to scalability, costs and regulatory approvals. The development of optimal production processes and their scale-up are at the center of many considerations. The central question is: How can new foods such as cultured meat be efficiently produced on a commercial scale? The answer: With ERIDIA as an experienced partner! The new joint venture between ZETA and Bühler is driving cellular agriculture forward and is the ideal partner for the road to market!

ZETA´s customers appreciate the outstanding engineering competence of the specialist in aseptic production processes. Among them is a producer of cultured fish meat, for whom ZETA developed a laboratory-scale tabletop system. This small pilot plant is intended for process optimization to determine the optimal growth conditions for the cells.

 

ZETA develops a tabletopsystem for process optimization

The small tabletop system has been developed as a flexible and modular system. For the most part, single-use components are used. The heart of the system is a culture tank with special equipment. This includes a holder for the so-called scaffolds. These are small plates made of edible material such as collagen, on which the animal cells are applied. The scaffolds allow structure and direction to be built up in the growing tissue. The meat itself is then generated from these overgrown plates in a subsequent biotechnological process. The culture tank is equipped with a temperature control unit (TCU) and a double jacket.

The growing cell culture requires an efficient supply of nutrients, while toxic metabolites have to be removed at the same time. In order to achieve this, ZETA developed a special design that allows the medium to flow evenly.

Optimal conditions for cell growth

The solution developed allows valuable growth factors and hormones to remain in the culture tank while metabolites are simultaneously removed. A sensor measures the nutrient concentration and enables precise dosing of the nutrient media. In addition to inline analysis, there is also an option for manual sampling.

The oxygen supply is another crucial point for the growth of the cells in a bioreactor. How is an optimal oxygen concentration to be achieved by stirring or gassing without damaging the sensitive cells through the shear forces that occur? The method developed by ZETA for the reliable determination of one of the most important performance parameters in bioreactors, the mass transfer coefficient for oxygen (kLa), is a milestone in terms of its optimization. A special, efficient gassing system was designed to supply the growing cells in the pilot plant described.

“Planning the system and automating it was the first step. The construction of the prototype and functional tests can now take place. This is followed by delivery to our partner,” explains Thomas Maischberger, Process Engineer in Project Development at ZETA, emphasizing: "The entire project is characterized by close cooperation between ZETA and the process experts of our customer."

Together with ERIDIA, on the way to market readiness

Significant developments are still required to bring cultured meat beyond taste testing to market readiness. ZETA has the best qualifications for developing tailor-made solutions together with future producers of sustainably produced food. ZETA has extensive expertise and experience in aseptic processing, in process engineering and in process design according to GMP guidelines.

Author: Thomas Maischberger

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