TALLINN - Fibenol, a company that converts residues into lignin and two types of sugars, has formed a strategic partnership with emerging biotechnology startup ÄIO to create a reliable alternative to traditionally produced fats and vegetable oils. Using ÄIO's technology, Fibenol's wood sugars are converted into oils and fatty acids, well suited as functional food, feed, and cosmetics ingredients.
Traditionally, C6 sugars, like glucose, have been consumed by most microbes, while hemicellulose-derived C5 sugars, such as xylose, posed challenges for efficient utilization. With the integration of ÄIO's advanced technology, Fibenol can now efficiently convert its C5 sugars into high-value nutrient-rich foods. Moreover, these converted sugars offer promising alternative constituents for the oleochemical industry. Karl Peebo, the project manager at Fibenol, expressed enthusiasm about the potential impact: "As the food sector significantly contributes to global emissions, our low CO2 footprint separation technology present a tremendous opportunity. We anticipate a growing range of applications for cellulosic sugars in the food industry in the future."
After successful laboratory-scale production and initial experimental trials, ÄIO recognized the need to seek partners for process upscaling. Despite the recent expansion of the biotechnology industry in Estonia, inadequate infrastructure has forced several biotechnology firms to relocate their production facilities elsewhere. Petri-Jaan Lahtvee, the co-founder of ÄIO, emphasized the significance of this pilot-scale collaboration with Fibenol: "This is an important milestone for ÄIO, showing that our biotech process is robust and can thrive under industry-like conditions. We are now poised to advance further the accessibility of alternative fats and oils for the food and cosmetics industries."
With the global demand for plant-based foods soaring, these novel ingredients possess immense potential to replace animal fats and palm oil while ensuring local food security. ÄIO researchers have estimated that adopting biotech processes to obtain new and alternative fats and oils could mitigate 100 million tons of CO2 emissions, assuming ÄIO's technology replaces approximately 30% of current palm oil usage.
Fibenol and ÄIO remain steadfast in their commitment to upholding the highest quality requirements and standards throughout production. Their primary focus is on delivering safe, nutritious ingredients fit for human consumption, with safety as the utmost priority.
Fibenol implements new cutting-edge technology to produce bio-based raw materials like lignin, wood sugars, and speciality cellulose from wood residues. Fibenol's innovative fractionation process converts more than 90% of woody biomass into high-value materials with minimal environmental impact. These sustainable bio-based materials can replace fossil-based chemicals to produce cosmetics, construction materials, fermentation, and many other products. Fibenol is leading the way in the SWEETSWOODS project and is pioneering groundbreaking solutions to enable industries to transition away from fossil resources and move towards a more sustainable future.
Since 2022, ÄIO has been on a mission to develop reliable alternatives to animal fats and palm oil. By introducing new, future-shaping lipid products to the market, the company aims to evoke a turn of mind towards more responsible production and consumption. ÄIO’s biotechnology solution converts various side streams into value-added ingredients rich in healthy fatty acids, vitamins, antioxidants, and pigments. Our innovative approach helps to reduce waste and minimize the environmental footprint of the food and cosmetics industries.