Geno is fermenting plans to grow domestic biomanufacturing.
Last week, Geno CEO Christophe Schilling went before the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry to outline a number of measures the U.S. government can take in the 2023 Farm Bill to advance U.S. leadership in biomanufacturing and support American farmers.
In his testimony, Schilling outlined how the federal government can strengthen its BioPreferred Program by enforcing federal purchasing requirements for biobased materials and advocated for the section 9003 loan guarantee program – a vital funding source for capital-intensive projects that are essential to scale domestic biomanufacturing.
“The U.S. has the raw materials, the technology and the talent to be the world leader in biomanufacturing,” he said. “The time to invest in building this important industry is now and we are ready to get to work.”
In his remarks, Schilling pointed out several key advantages of biomanufacturing in the U.S., including revitalizing rural farming communities and reducing greenhouse gasses.
“We’ve built our technology to have the capacity to play an important role in providing climate solutions, at scale,” he said. “To give a sense of Geno’s potential impact, if we replaced current petroleum-derived ingredients on the market with their plant-based counterparts, we could reduce the emission of 85 million tons of carbon dioxide annually. This is the equivalent of taking more than 18 million cars off the road each year.”
As an example of the importance of funding biomanufacturing, Schilling pointed to the $300 million capital investment that is supporting a commercial-scale plant under construction in Eddyville, Iowa built by Qore – a joint venture of Cargill and HELM – that Geno is powering with its technology. When completed, the plant will produce 65,000 tons per year of plant-based materials and provide jobs throughout the region.
In addition to partnering with Oore on its biomanufacturing plant, Geno is looking to build one of its own and Schilling requested the committee recommend raising the $250 million cap in the Farm Bill’s funding program and speed up the review process for projects.
“Programs like the USDA 9003 loan guarantee program are critically important to companies like Geno that are looking to bridge the gap between successfully building a proven technology and establishing a broad-based biomanufacturing infrastructure in the U.S.,” Schilling said, adding that Geno would locate its plant in a farming region and promote sustainable agricultural production practices.
“Not only would such a facility utilize domestic feedstocks, but it would also create well-paying manufacturing jobs in rural communities while making ingredients in America that have significant greenhouse gas reductions compared to their conventional counterparts, while being cost competitive,” Schilling added.
Schilling’s Farm Bill testimony is the latest action by the Geno CEO in advocating for domestic biomanufacturing and advancing American agriculture. In September, he spoke at the White House Summit on Biomanufacturing where the Biden Administration laid out a plan to support biotechnology and biomanufacturing and was recently invited back to provide guidance on implementing the Executive Order.
Fermenting Functional Foods
Last week’s Farm Bill testimony comes on the heels of an announcement earlier this month that Geno had expanded into a new market with the release of the company’s first functional foods product: Avela – a natural, sugar-free ingredient that raises beta-hydroxybutyrate (BHB) ketone levels, the body’s primary energy source when it is in the state of ketosis and burning fat instead of carbohydrates.
Geno Senior Vice President of Specialty Products Damien Perriman described Avela as a “functional ingredient” made from plant-based sources in a fermentation process that can produce high-quality product in high-quantities in a cost-effective way.
“Those are important elements for an ingredient because you want people to be able to get a positive use experience out of it, you want it to work and you want it to be affordable,” he said.
Studies have shown that energy from elevated BHB levels can help boost mental clarity and athletic performance. Avela can help food product companies bring these benefits to a wider consumer audience by fueling everyday and high-performance activities anywhere — without the need for a highly restrictive diet.
Perriman said Avela will be marketed to companies in the $5 billion keto lifestyle market, the $25 billion sports recovery market and the $30 billion energy drinks market.
Avela is self-affirmed Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) and can be used to formulate a broad range of keto-friendly products across a variety of categories — including beverages, bars and gels — driving down costs and increasing its distribution potential and acceptance in retail outlets. Avela is already being used in popular Keto products like Kenetik made by VitaNav and Ketone-IQ by H.V.M.N.
“Our objective as an ingredient supplier is to deliver the right quality, the right sensory experience, the right functional benefits and the right affordability metric so that this down ingredient can be useful to all of those respective segments,” Perriman said. “As a longstanding sustainability leader, we are well-positioned to disrupt the keto industry in ways not possible until now.”
Perriman added that Geno is looking into other ingredients it might be able to produce in a more sustainable way and has been building out its fermentation capacity to prepare for more expansion.
“Fermentation is a wonderful way of making products for the human body – it’s very safe, it’s natural, we’ve been doing it for thousands of years. So being geeks in fermentation, it seems natural that we look to fermentation for the means of making more stuff for the human body,” he said. “We look forward to doing more in this segment.”
Business: Sustainability-driven biotech company
Headquarters: San Diego, UTC
CEO: Christophe Schilling
Notable: CEO Christophe Schilling is emerging as a leading voice to advance the domestic biomanufacturing industry.