“As we sit today we are processing ProFloc to human food-based standards,” Leo Gingras, CEO of Nutrinsic, told NutraIngredients-USA. “We have had a lot of interest from the pet food people and they are basically operating on human food standards.”
Nutrinsic was the brainchild of two PhD students in environmental engineering at Colorado School of Mines—Andy Logan and Seth Terry, both of whom are still with the company—who had taken a tour of the main Coors brewery, which is just a mile or two from the Mines campus in Golden, CO. Like all brewers, Coors had a wastewater problem; after a run, the tanks needed to be flushed with water and that water had to be treated before being released.
But it occurred to the pair that the water wasn’t contaminated so much as overly laden with nutrients, nutrients that could be repurposed for profit given the right conditions. Their brainstorm was to provide the right conditions for the microbial community that would process those nutrients to thrive.
“There are some companies using microbes to produce food grade products, and they tend to use single organisms, or even genetically modified organisms. We have taken the opposite route. Our approach is to use a polyculture; it’s all naturally occurring bacteria. We create an environment that allows that natural culture to thrive,” Gingras said.
Beneficial relationship with food, beverage manufacturers
The company’s patented model is to use waste streams from a given facility, such as a brewery, to employ is microbial technique. The brewer or other food processor gets its waste water treated for free, and Nutrinsic gets its inputs for free, too, once the startup capital costs are absorbed. The process does require a hefty addition of nitrogen, a key component of protein molecules.
The resulting protein, which up to now has been sold into animal feed and aquaculture markets, competes well in both price and quality with other forms, such as fish meal, Gingras said.
The company recently passed a milestone with the opening of its first production facility attached to a MillerCoors brewery in Trenton, OH. The facility has a capacity to produce 5,000 tons annually of ProFloc.
“We eliminate their biosolids control problem,” Gingras said. “The water that comes out of our facility can go straight into the Little Miami River.”
In the future, the company plans to look at other waste streams that could be brought to a ProFloc production facility. Locating next to a given food facility and using its waste stream has obvious advantages, but the total output of the facility is chained to the size and production schedule of the food and beverage manufacturer, Gingras said. One waste stream Nutrinsic has looked into is that arising from ethanol production from corn, he said.
With food-grade inputs, meeting food grade standards wouldn’t be too difficult, Gingras said.
“We really don’t see any big changes we’d need to make. Several of us have actually eaten our product; it has a very mild flavor, really not much flavor at all. It’s not so much that the product needs to be tweaked as the regulatory hurdles that need to be jumped over,” he said.
“Our game plan is to start with an animal feed platform but as we gather data, we plan to move to the human side. On the human food side we might want to go to the next level with concentrates,” Gingras said.
One obvious starting point for the protein would be in sports nutrition products, Gingras said. Another target could be beverage fortification.