When CO2 is used to feed animals


What if we used CO2 to feed farm animals? The idea is not as ludicrous as it may seem; it was even tested last year by Deep Branch Biotechnology.

The process developed and patented by the English company consists in producing single-cell proteins (SCP) by means of a gas fermentation process based on yeast, bacteria or microalgae, which are supplied with water, carbon dioxide and hydrogen, produced by electrolysis. 

These single-cell proteins are then used to produce a high-protein feed known as “Proton”, which may be used in fish farming or poultry breeding. To produce this Proton, all that is needed is an abundance of a raw material to feed the micro-organisms: CO2, methane, ethanol, sugar, biogas, etc.

In the case of Deep Branch’s pilot project, the raw material is CO2 provided by the power station run by Drax, the largest renewable energy producer in the United Kingdom. Located in Selby, Yorkshire, this power plant, which covers 5% of the country’s electricity needs, has recently converted to biomass combustion. 

Reducing animal feed’s carbon footprint 

If it were to prove viable, this solution would make it possible to reduce animal feed production’s extremely high carbon footprint. Animal feed primarily contains soy, cereals and fishmeal, and the production of these ingredients has devastating effects on the environment. According to the environmental protection NGO WWF, in 2017, 75% of global corn and soy production was intended for food for animals, mainly poultry and pigs. 

However, to meet the exponential global demand for meat due to increasingly meat-based diets, it is necessary to clear more and more land for crops designated for animal feed production. And this clearing represents a growing climate threat.

Deep Branch’s solution is therefore of interest, on one condition: achieving commercial profitability. According to estimates by the American agency Lux Research, the investment cost for producing single-cell proteins is huge: constructing the industrial facilities would cost over 80 million euros, not even taking access to the raw material, i.e. CO2, into account.


“Creating animal food from a greenhouse gas,” BBC, December 18, 2020 - www.bbc.com/news/business-55014403