Technology to ensure the commercial feasibility of new food products

GEA New Food Application & Technology Center of Excellence

A cell cultivation and fermentation pilot line to fast-track innovations from the lab to commercial-scale manufacturing.

New Food ATC featuring 50L and 500L bioreactors
The New Food Application and Technology Center of Excellence (ATC) has been established as a central hub to support innovation in the emerging field of cellular agriculture. This GEA facility offers leading edge bioreactor and precision fermentation and allocated upstream and downstream technologies in a highly flexible, pilot scale setup, so you can trial and evaluate fermentation and cell cultivation processes, and work towards scale up.

Supported by decades of GEA expertise

The global market for cellular agriculture is predicted to reach more than $515 billion by 2030, and industry is making massive efforts to develop cell-based strategies for generating proteins, fats and other key nutritional components and tissues.

To help industry fast track process development for a wide potential range of new food applications, we have established the dedicated GEA New Food Application and Technology Center of Excellence. Sited at our state-of-the-art facility this GEA engineering and knowledge hub gives you the opportunity to come and work with our application and technology experts to prototype new processes for cellular agriculture on our flexible modular, pilot-scale processing line.  

The ATC gives you the opportunity to evaluate at a translatable pilot scale, processes for manufacturing new foods. The ATC offers you the flexibility to test production using cell culture and microbial fermentation, with 50–500 liter bioreactor/fermenter equipment, linked with upstream and downstream process stages.

Skid mounted

The ATC currently consists of eight of our industry-recognized, food regulatory-compliant technologies. These include two sizes of GEA fermentation and cell cultivation units as the core elements, together with blending and high-shear mixing equipment, upstream UHT sterilization and sterile filtration technologies, downstream homogenization, cell separation and micro- and ultrafiltration, technologies. We are also able to configure the line flexibly by means of additional or repeated process steps in order to optimize product yield and its quality.

No CAPEX and low OPEX

Work with us at the ATC and there are no capital or other investment costs. We’ll help you to generate true proof of concept for your processes and support a business model for scale-up to commercial cell- and microbial-based manufacturing of food products or nutritional components. 

We’ll partner with you to configure a process line that matches the specifications for your cultivation and fermentation projects. And if your recipe or process requires additional equipment that isn’t already on site, we may be able to integrate the relevant technology from our vertically integrated portfolio, into the ATC. You might also be able to hire out specific GEA systems for testing at your own site.

If you decide to subsequently move forward and invest in an industrial-scale solution we can continue our partnership to configure and optimize a setup that will match your process and business needs.

Scaling up from lab bench to industrial manufacturing

The ATC will be used to evaluate processes on a transferable pilot scale.

Whatever the final product – whether a cultivated meat derived from bovine cells, or a metabolite produced by precision fermentation in recombinant organisms – the development of any cellular agriculture process will start at bench scale, using laboratory equipment that produces perhaps just a few liters or less of broth, with a low product yield. Early work is focused on demonstrating experimentally that the recipe and process can support cell growth and manufacture of the desired end product. 

However, even the most promising results at bench scale cannot be taken as a guarantee that the process will scale up to allow economically viable commercial-scale production. Cells grown in a lab setting won’t necessarily perform the same as they will in industrial-scale process lines that are designed to produce, sustainably and with high yield, hundreds of kilos of product.

So, industrial manufacturing may prove to be uneconomical if, for example, the yield at commercial scale is too low, growth is too slow, the organism is unable to cope with industrial stresses, the costs associated with resource and energy use are too high, or downstream processing is inefficient. If the relevant challenges aren’t addressed, the end product may just be too expensive for consumers.

An alternative to investment in the unproven

Ideally, it should be possible to test cultivation and fermentation performance at a scale that enables proof of concept. Scientists need to be able to modify or test new recipes, evaluate changes to growth media and ingredients, and potentially change process parameters to increase yield or reproducibility. And they need to do this using equipment that is relevant to industrial production, but without massive investment. Yet until now, the leap from testing food-focused cultivation and fermentation processes at the bench to validating processes at the pilot industrial scale has commonly involved significant investment in demo plants, again with no guarantee of success.

Fully featured pilot plant

GEA New Food Application and Technology Center of Excellence (contact)

Realizing a very real need to bridge this gap with a new type of test platform, GEA devised a fully featured, pilot-scale process line for cultivation and microbial fermentation. The pilot-scale equipment at the ATC lets you test production at a volume that is close to industrial scale, but without the need for investment in industrial-scale equipment.

The availability of a flexible, modular, and comprehensive process line for evaluating new foods processes at this scale represents an entirely new concept. It also offers new opportunities for testing a diverse range of cellular agriculture concepts and processes.

Understanding your cells and processes

Scaling up from lab bench to industrial manufacturing

Importantly, our fermenter/bioreactor units can be set up for aerobic and anaerobic cultivation, or fermentation reactions, using just about any cell type. The platform also offers the potential to test the requirement for and/or level of heat treatment, and evaluate different gassing and feeding strategies, so you can really get to understand how your cells behave, and how to reduce the risk of contamination between batches and – when switching recipes – cell types and processes.

Using our equipment you can find the optimal process sequence by monitoring cell conditions and performing mass balances at each stage, evaluating reproducibility between batches and final yields, and looking at where efficiencies may be lost or gained. You can then modify parameters, or even swap the order of different stages to improve the process and troubleshoot. We believe that our highly versatile, user-friendly, and easy-to-configure bioreactor/fermentation line will offer up a world of possibilities for new feasibility studies and allow you to gain valuable expertise in processes and production to transfer in house. And, unlike testing at lab scale, pilot scale manufacturing at the ATC will likely give you sufficient product to take forward for downstream process testing – for example spray or freeze drying.

It’s our aim to help you derive successful processes, so you can generate a solid business model for future investment in product development.

Title image New Food Frontiers

Report: New Food Frontiers

At GEA, we’re helping the world realize the promise of alternative proteins.

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