Whey2Value – Technology for the production of vitamin B12 from whey
Acies Bio has developed an innovative technology for the production of cellular biomass with a high content of vitamin B12 which uses waste whey as the raw material. The process was demonstrated at a pilot scale of 10m3. Based on this technology, a joint undertaking was founded with a foreign partner where the design of a production plant is currently underway. Vitamin B12-enriched biomass can be used directly as a feed additive in agriculture.
Vitamin B12-enriched biomass can serve as a source of vitamin B12 in the production of animal feed or food.
Due to its high content of organic matter, waste whey causes extremely high wastewater treatment costs while its direct discharge has a highly negative impact on the environment. Globally, whey production exceeds 200,000,000 tonnes and just 50% of that amount is treated. On the other hand, whey represents an untapped potential for the biotechnological production of various products with high added value.
Vitamin B12 (cobalamin) is a water-soluble B-complex vitamin that is essential for the normal functioning of cellular metabolism. Vitamin B12 is not produced by either animals or plants, and the chemical synthesis of this highly complex vitamin is commercially unviable, which is why it is produced only through biotechnological fermentation processes with microorganisms.
For an economically viable production of vitamin B12 from waste whey, we here at Acies Bio have developed the bacterial strain called Propionibacterium freudenreichii which can produce sufficient quantities of vitamin B12, in addition to the design of an innovative and patented (EP3140416, US9938554) process that utilises co-cultivation on the basis of yeast. Our innovative bioprocess approach allows the biosynthesis of vitamin B12 and reduces the contamination of process effluents. The circular economy principles were used to design a biosynthetic process for converting waste into a product having high added value, while also producing clean water that can be re-used in the process or discharged into the environment without any negative impact. Vitamin B12-enriched biomass can be used directly as a feed additive in agriculture.
Development of this technology was highly multidisciplinary in nature and encompassed the development of industrial strains, the development of a fermentation process, the transition from laboratory to a semi-industrial scale, and the development of finishing processes. After several years of development, a new joint undertaking was founded with a large foreign business, which is in charge of the production plant design, industrial production, and the commercialisation of vitamin B12-enriched biomass.
- Replacement of traditional sources of nutrients (sugars) with waste sources of carbon and nitrogen in the production of products with high added value.
- Reduction of the environmental and financial burden of whey as a pollutant in the dairy industry.
- Application of circular economy principles in the exploitation of food industry by-products for the production of biomolecules with high added value.
Whey2Value technology has received a grant from EU Horizon 2020 SME INST Phase 2 in 2015.