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Transforming Plant Waste into Food: Lund University and Tetra Pak's Pioneering Precision Fermentation Lab

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Lund University and Tetra Pak Processing are teaming up to create Biotech Heights, one of the largest precision fermentation research facilities in the Nordics. This innovative project aims to transform inedible plant waste into nutritious food and materials, addressing the growing need for sustainable food production in a world with dwindling resources.

Precision fermentation, increasingly discussed among biotechnology and food experts, involves using microorganisms like yeasts, fungi, and bacteria to convert plant waste into valuable products. Professor Eva Nordberg Karlsson from Lund University explains that this process will reinvent food manufacturing, utilizing agricultural and industrial waste that is currently discarded or used as animal feed.

The principle behind precision fermentation is simple yet revolutionary. Selected microorganisms are introduced to plant remnants from industrial and agricultural activities. These organisms not only consume the plant waste but also produce prebiotic carbohydrates and proteins, essential for human consumption. Some bacteria even utilize atmospheric carbon dioxide, adding to the sustainability of the process.

This approach, while based on the ancient method of fermenting vegetables, differs in its controlled and detailed application. The challenge lies in improving efficiency, as current methods often result in diluted products with high manufacturing costs. Lund University and Tetra Pak's joint venture aims to optimize the entire production chain, from selecting and fine-tuning microorganisms to scaling up for commercial viability.

The project, named Biotech Heights, will see the construction of a large laboratory equipped with tanks, separators, filters, centrifuges, and other advanced machinery. Located potentially at Kemicentrum, the Centre for Chemistry and Chemical Engineering at Lund University, the facility will bridge the gap between academia and industry, offering access to other collaborative partners.

The collaboration draws on Lund University's decades-long expertise in converting waste into bioethanol and platform chemicals, while Tetra Pak brings its prowess in upscaling and packaging. With initial funding from Vinnova and more expected, this initiative represents a significant step forward in sustainable food production, leveraging Lund's rich agricultural landscape and concentration of food manufacturing companies.

Biotech Heights exemplifies how academic-industry collaborations can drive innovation in sustainable food production. By harnessing the potential of precision fermentation, this initiative not only proposes a solution to food scarcity but also contributes to environmental sustainability. It stands as a model for transforming waste into resources, reflecting a broader shift towards more ecologically responsible and efficient food systems.

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