The phytomass bio-refinery concept is a vision which Phytowelt is working towards. The aim is to set up our own production facility for flavour ingredients and other fine chemicals, in which the carbon sources for our production organisms are obtained from biomass. Bacteria use various carbon sources, mostly carbohydrates, which they convert into complex molecules through their metabolism. Various sugars can serve as carbon sources, which can be extracted from biomass.
Biomass can be obtained from various plant cultures or from recycling processes; we would like to make it usable from poplar SRC (short rotation coppice) and sugar beet pulp. Neither source competes with food production, as poplar SRC is grown on field margins or on marginal soils, and sugar beet pulp is a residue of sugar production. The required sugars are extracted from the biomass and fed to the bacteria in our fermenters as a carbon source. These utilise the carbon in the course of their metabolism, which we have optimised, and thus produce desired substances. The production facility is to be named phytopark and will produce all products of the phytomining department (industrial biotechnology) in the future. At the same time, the poplar SRC will build a bridge to the phytodiversity department (plant biotechnology), where we have bred several fast-growing poplar varieties with our flagship technology, the protoplast fusion.
All the technologies needed for this ambitious vision have already been developed, tested and combined with our own funds or in EU-funded projects such as BIVAC (https://www.bivac.eu/), and most of them have been brought to market. The best example is our own raspberry aroma ingredient, (R)-alpha-Ionone. For our Ionone and the unique combination of the technologies mentioned, we were named Europe’s most innovative SME in the field of agri-biotech by EuropaBio in 2018.