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lunes, 13 de marzo de 2017

DSM and Evonik to build an algal oil plant at commercial-scale in USA

Royal DSM and Evonik announced last week their intention to establish a joint venture for omega-3 fatty acid products from natural marine algae for animal nutrition (see press release). Its name will be VeramarisTM and will have its headquarters in The Netherlands. The companies will together build a commercial-scale production facility in the United States.

The problem and the proposed solution

Worldwide fish oil production is approximately one million metric tons per year. Most of the fish oil is used in aquaculture, mainly for fat-rich fish species, such as salmon. Fish from wild capture cannot longer meet rising global demand and most salmon is now farmed in aquaculture. Salmon require specific omega-3 fatty acids for healthy growth. Those essential elements are contained in fish oil which is mixed into the salmon feed. And obviously, the fish oil is produced from fish. The limited wild fish stocks restrict the amount of fish oil available and, therefore, the growth of the aquaculture industry.

Figure 1. DSM and Evonik breakthrough – shortening the food chain (extracted from the presentation: “DSM and Evonik establish joint venture for omega-3 fatty acids from natural marine algae for animal nutrition”, Bergen, Norway – 8 March 2017)

DSM and Evonik have proposed a solution to this problem: obtaining omega-3 fatty acids from natural marine algae. It is a sustainable non-fish alternative. The algal oil means that the vision of salmon farming without using fish-based resources is becoming realistic. By replacing fish oil in salmon feed with this EPA and DHA rich alternative, DSM and Evonik will enable the aquaculture industry to continue to grow sustainably.

A short reminder about omega-3 fatty acids
They are a family of polyunsaturated fats, including eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Because they are not produced naturally by the body, they must be obtained from the diet or through supplementation. A large and growing body of evidence shows that sufficient levels of EPA and DHA support brain, eye and heart health in multiple species, including humans.

Joint development between DSM and Evonik

The joint venture is the continuation of a joint development agreement signed in July 2015. Under this agreement, DSM and Evonik have jointly worked on the development of products and the manufacturing process and explored opportunities for commercialization. Both companies achieved positive results in the development of the product while extensively working with the entire value chain, including fish feed producers, fish farmers and retailers.

They have successfully produced pilot-scale quantities of the algal oil at DSM’s production facility in Kingstree (South Carolina, USA). The achievements in the product and process development were only possible thanks to the complementary competencies of DSM (cultivation of marine organisms and biotechnology capabilities) and Evonik (development of industrial biotechnology processes and operation of fermentative systems).

The commercial facility

DSM Nutritional Products and Evonik Nutrition & Care will each hold a 50% share in the joint venture and co-own the production facility, which will be built at an existing site of Evonik and is expected to come on stream in 2019. The joint venture plans to invest around USD 200 million in the facility (USD 100 million by each party over circa 2 years).

The initial annual production capacity will meet roughly 15% of the total current annual demand for EPA and DHA by the salmon aquaculture industry. Customers will be able to receive sizeable quantities of the product (from the pilot plant) for market development while the construction of the new manufacturing plant is underway.

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