A taste of the future: How enzymes could make the food industry greener
Enzymes are used to improve plant sources for the use in foods. That is great news for feeding our future population.
We find it in plants, animals, fungi and even in our own bodies. But Enzymes are not only vital components of everything living:
Through decades of innovation, enzymes have become one of the most trusted tools in the world of biotechnology. They are used to make food, clothes and medicine better.
“Enzymes have become indispensable in various modern industries,” says Dr. Alexander Pelzer, head of research and development at BRAIN Biotech AG.
But as the demand on natural resources continues to increase, one thing is certain: We must rethink how and what we produce and consume.
In order to feed 9.8 billion people by 2050, we need 250 million tons of protein each year. Food protein is largely sourced from farmed animals and caught wild fish, an industry that accounts for significant greenhouse gas emissions.
“This is a behavior that we cannot afford to continue forever,” Dr. Pelzer says.
His job is to discover, develop and customize enzymes, proteins and microorganisms. Something which could potentially hold the solution to a more environmentally sustainable food industry.
“The protein for future nutrition needs to be produced differently. Enzymes are set to take center stage in this context,” he adds.
BIOPROSP is the international biennial scientific conference on marine biotechnology. The conference´s goal is to translate basic research into applied research with industrial application.
Nature shows the way
Finding alternative protein sources is crucial. Experts have long emphasized the importance of eating more plant-based food, yet it remains a challenge to put this advice into practice.
“Plant protein sources are often not directly suitable to process into food due to their structure, bitter substances or unpleasant taste profiles,” Dr. Pelzer explains.
This is where enzymes come in: they originate from nature and have been around for almost four billion years. As natural catalysts, enzymes can change the functionality of proteins and thus make plant proteins more suitable for industrial foods.
“Enzymes are versatile helpmates for building, degrading and modifying molecules. They enable us to produce almost any molecule we are looking for”, says Dr. Pelzer.
BRAIN Biotech supports the food industry with enzymes to optimize the taste, structure, color or shelf life of their plant-based products – ideally in the most natural way possible.
But sometimes, the right enzyme either doesn’t exist or has not been discovered yet. This is where the expertise of Dr. Pelzer's team comes in.
“A powerful resource for enzyme discovery”
BRAIN Biotech searches for useful enzymes in nature – and through various engineering methods – optimize and customize the enzymes for specific purposes. In order to do this, they have a couple of tools at hand:
The company’s bioarchive contains a large collection of characterized enzymes, microorganisms and libraries of DNA, strains, habitats and more.
The next stage of using nature as a guide to find breakthrough inventions for nutrition, health and industrial processes is represented by something called The BRAIN SeqPool.
“This is a powerful resource for enzyme discovery,” Dr Pelzer says.
The BRAIN SeqPool – short for sequence pool – can be explained as a large metagenomic database. It is based on a collection of digital genetic information, sourced from over 50 metagenomes (collected genetic material from a specific environment or ecosystem).
The source material derived from natural environments such as soil or water is then transferred to the virtual world.
Cutting-edge technology like big data analysis, prediction, modeling and high-speed screening allows for quick and targeted identification of enzymes with unique properties.
“The opportunities offered by modern biotechnology have never been greater. The targeted use of enzymes and microorganisms will help establish sustainable and future-proof processes for healthy food production,” Dr. Pelzer concludes.
Do you want to learn more about how enzymes are developed for industrial application and BRAIN Biotech's work with SeqPool? Listen to Alexander Pelzer's talk at BIOPROPS 16th of March at 09:45. Here you can read more about BIOPROSP!