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GEA to build world's first pilot plant for production of krill protein

22/09/2021 – Technology / Krill / Biotechnology / Hydrolysing / Protein / New Food / GEA

GEA to build world's first pilot plant for production of krill protein

On behalf of Aker BioMarine, GEA is to design and deliver the world’s first pilot plant for hydrolysing krill protein. This new development represents an important step for GEA in the strategic growth area of ‘New Food’. 

The partners signed the engineering, procurement and construction contract, which is said by GEA – one of the world’s largest systems suppliers for the F&B and pharma sectors – to be valued “in the double-digit-million-euro range” in July 2021. 

The client, Aker BioMarine, is a biotechnology company based in Norway that fishes for Antarctic krill – tiny shrimp-like crustaceans – and uses them to develop ingredients for functional foods, aquaculture and animal feed. 

Slated to come online in late 2022, the new pilot plant will produce INVI – a highly-concentrated, premium protein isolate destined for the F&B and nutraceutical segments, aimed at both sports nutrition and general wellness consumers, as demand for alternative protein sources continues to rise.  

Commercialising krill protein powder for human consumption

The pilot plant, now ordered, is the next step in commercialising krill human protein powder. It will expand the current small-scale process to a scalable, industrial production level with a capacity of 120 tons per year. 

“Thanks to innovative companies such as Aker BioMarine, the topic of New Food is currently developing into an increasingly important future market, which is also of strategic importance for GEA,” noted Ilija Aprcovic, CEO of the Liquid & Powder Technologies Division of GEA Group AG, adding that such advancements were “unlocking entirely new sources of human nutrition and health”. “We are pleased to join Aker BioMarine on their journey into researching and commercialising krill protein – and to do so in a way that is absolutely climate- and environmentally-friendly,” the GEA executive added.

“With GEA’s experience in engineering facilities and systems for industries like ours, we aim for a highly innovative, technology-based plant, which will also house a research and innovation centre,” announced Kees van de Watering, VP Process Engineering at Aker BioMarine, adding that the plant is designed with high flexibility to facilitate further product development and innovation.

Pioneer in sustainable marine ingredients

As a pioneer in sustainable marine ingredients, Aker BioMarine believes it has a responsibility to improve human health through product innovation and sustainable harvesting technology without compromising the health of the planet and its marine ecosystems. To this end, the company intends to decarbonise both its krill fisheries and production.

After running a global site search process, Aker BioMarine selected Ski Næringspark in Norway as the location of the facility. In selecting this site, Aker BioMarine will contribute to the further development of the competence environment for marine biotechnology in Norway and leverage R&D expertise from its headquarters in Fornebu. The investment was made possible by the support received through Innovation Norway's Extraordinary Innovation Grant to bring these activities home after early development in Denmark and the US.

Aker BioMarine’s decision to co-operate with GEA was motivated in part by the systems supplier’s consistent pursuit of sustainability, together with the reduced carbon footprint offered by its process technology offers. GEA has vowed to engineer the pilot plant for krill protein “with a view to sustainability”.

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