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Rethinking Waste with Cx Bio

Rethinking Waste with Cx Bio

Adapted from an interview with Cx Bio, a subsection of which was published in FoodBev Article Dec 2023 date (link)

Authors: Milena Ivanisevic, Dorian Leger, and Martin Ivanov

Why is food waste reduction such an important area?  

It's all about efficiency - doing more with less. Globally one third of food is “wasted” along the many steps in supply chains, like a bad leak, accounting for avoidable GHG and lost resources invested in production, while about 1 in 10 people face malnutrition ref. According to UNEP, 8-10% of GHG emissions are associated with food that is not consumed including wasted food that ends up decomposing and emitting methane to the atmosphere (UN Environment Program, 2021) refIn Europe 60 million tonnes of food is wasted per year, with more than 50% at the consumer stage ref. This “leakage” in supply chains should be prevented and also waste can be upcycled. There are many categories of food waste, and generally speaking they contain valuable carbohydrates, protein and other nutrients that can be upcycled. 

What is currently trending in the food waste space?

In the EU's regulatory sphere, the Farm to Fork strategy under the Green Deal, underscores the significance of preventing food waste to foster a climate-friendly, socially equitable, and healthier food system. At national levels, France, Germany and the Netherlands are pioneering by implementing a policy of collecting food waste at the household level starting in January, 2024, which can be turned into significant amounts of syngas or biomethane. We see start-ups ready to take advantage of such decentralised biomethane production already, such as Arkeal. Other companies are developing side stream utilisation for production of commodities, such as NoPalm and Äio's microbial oil production. Industrial symbiosis projects that use each other’s side streams, like ENOUGH and Cargill in the Netherlands, and Kalundborg Synbiosis in Denmark, are also worth noting.

Image source: Kalundborg Symbiosis

Note on waste utilising technology integration into already existing systems by Martin Ivanov

The New Holland T7.270 methane-powered tractor, a groundbreaking innovation in sustainable agriculture, has garnered multiple awards for its eco-friendly design and performance. This tractor represents a prime example of how the most disruptive technologies can be non-disruptive in implementation. By building upon existing infrastructure for natural gas distribution, the New Holland tractor is able to leverage a readily available, low-carbon fuel source, biomethane. This scalable solution allows farmers to reduce their environmental impact without having to overhaul their current operations. The ability to seamlessly integrate into the established natural gas network demonstrates how innovation can drive sustainable change without causing significant disruption. In light of recent farmers' strikes across the EU protesting high diesel prices and demanding overhaul of EU subsidies, such solutions offer a compelling alternative. By shifting to biomethane, farmers can achieve fuel cost stability and reduce their dependence on volatile fossil fuels, ultimately contributing to a more sustainable and resilient agricultural sector.

How is Cx Bio innovating in this space?  

We are creating an open-access Techno Economic Analysis (TEA), for waste/side stream conversions into foods via biomethane as an intermediary. In brief, waste is converted into biomethane in a first step and then the biomethane is fed to so-called methanotrophic microbes to produce valuable biomass, which can be used as food ingredients. This work is supported by a Good Food Institute 2023 grant. The purpose of the study is to give companies looking to enter the space the tools needed to evaluate its economic feasibility. 

What makes Cx Bio work stand out?  

The technology we work on promotes synergy with the existing food system. We want to build solutions that farmers and food processors see as complementing their industry rather than displacing them. Our goal is to drive innovation that greens the food system and increases food security. In our view, the most disruptive technologies are non disruptive in their implementation because they build on existing infrastructure to scale rapidly. Our “waste to X”  technology is even more impactful in that waste left unattended will produce methane that will leak into the atmosphere as a potent GHG.

What’s next for this space? Have you seen any exciting innovations here?  

There are many routes for waste utilisation. We are focused on biomethane. There is a massive push from the EU to develop biomethane capacity, targeting growth from 3.5 bcm (billion cubic meters) per year today to 35 bcm by 2030, with a parallel effort to increase the reliance on non-dedicated agricultural inputs for biomethane production. This represents a great opportunity to decarbonize various methane-to-X technologies. At Cx Bio, we are working on methane to proteins and methane to lipids.

Closing remarks 

We live in extraordinarily politically polarised times. Now more than ever, we must think about building solutions that support many stakeholders. Novel foods and conventional agriculture should work together to green food systems while feeding the world. We believe that where possible, we need climate solutions that benefit incumbents as well as innovators.

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