Environmental changes and geopolitical events are putting pressure on food supplies worldwide. Scientists are calling for major changes to our food system as global food security decreases. Technological innovations are crucial to the transition towards more resilient agricultural practices. At Deep Branch, we believe single-cell protein could provide a solution.
Proteins are an essential part of both human and animal diets. Our single-cell protein Proton™ provides a practical and nutritious alternative to traditional animal feed ingredients while contributing to greater food security and more climate-resilient food systems.
Making more from less
Current industrial agricultural practices that produce protein rely heavily on a range of finite resources. For example, industrial agriculture uses vast amounts of fresh water – up to 15,000 litres per kilogram is needed to produce a kilogram of beef – and vast amounts of land for crop and livestock farming.
In contrast, the gas fermentation process we use to create Proton does not require arable land. In fact, producing 100,000 tonnes of Proton will prevent an area three times the size of Paris from deforestation. The process only uses microbes, carbon dioxide, hydrogen, oxygen and micronutrients – all readily available resources – plus a small amount of water. There are abundant supplies of our main ingredient CO₂, which we source from our partners as a by-product, making Proton production more resource-efficient than traditional agriculture.
Isolated from weather events
Industrial agriculture is highly subject to variations in the weather. Bad weather can disrupt crop growth, while extreme weather events such as flooding or drought can lead to crop failure. As opposed to the seasonality we’re used to in traditional agriculture, our fermentation operates continuously, so the product is constantly extracted from the system. At the same time, gases and other input streams are controlled to maintain consistent volumes and biomass concentrations.
Scientists predict that extreme weather events will become more common with climate change intensifying. Producing Proton is self-contained and protected from the elements.
Reduced geopolitical risk
Proton production plants will be built where inputs are available locally and won’t rely on an extended global supply chain. Not only does this approach simplify the value chain, but it also protects it from geopolitical events. With the proximity of downstream markets like feed producers and aquafarms taken into account, Proton will increase food security for local economies and allow the countries we operate in to be more independent.
The Russia-Ukraine war has demonstrated how easily supply chains can be disrupted, impacting both energy and food prices. A largely local value chain is, therefore, a significant advantage in reliability.
Scalability is crucial
According to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization, there will be an estimated 840 million undernourished people worldwide by 2030. Therefore, combatting global food insecurity will require highly scalable solutions.
Proton technology runs continuously and is designed to scale. The input ingredients are abundant, while manufacturing takes up a negligible footprint. This contrasts with scaling industrial agriculture, which requires vast amounts of arable land.
In a matter of months, our pilot production facility in the Netherlands will be commissioned to produce around 250kg of dried Proton every month. This will be followed by our commercial facility, which will create approximately 250 tonnes of ingredients annually when it is expected to launch in 2025.
Bringing Proton to market will tackle the climate emergency and reduce the food industry’s impact on biodiversity loss. With continuous production and reduced carbon intensity of over 60% compared to conventional proteins, Proton can be pivotal in supporting a food system that puts sustainability and food security at its core.
Learn more about the technology behind Proton here.