REACT-FIRST consortium aims to turn CO2 captured at Drax’s biomass power plant in Yorkshire into sustainable animal feed
A "carbon recycling" project that aims to decarbonise food production by converting CO2 captured at Drax's Yorkshire biomass power plant into animal feed has launched after securing £3m support from the government.
The REACT-FIRST project, which relies on carbon dioxide-to-protein technology developed by Nottingham-based biotechnology start-up Deep Branch, was one of nine agritech projects to clinch funding last week from Innovate UK in a funding round targeted at driving down costs and greenhouse gas emissions in the agriculture sector.
Deep Branch is leading the project, which brings together 10 industry and academic partners, including Nottingham Trent University, energy company Drax, retailer Sainsbury's, aquafeed producer BioMar and poultry feed producer AB Agri.
The partners intend to test a new type of "high value" single-cell protein dubbed "Proton" for fish and poultry feed, which will be produced using carbon emissions captured from Drax's biomass power plant in Selby, North Yorkshire.
Peter Rowe, chief executive of Deep Branch, said the technology could reduce the UK's reliance on carbon-intensive supply chains for animal feed, and could be key to helping the industry move towards net zero emissions.
"Currently, most animal feed protein sources are imported from overseas, making the UK dependent on complicated and fragile supply chains," Rowe explained. "REACT-FIRST has been created to focus solely on addressing this problem."
Throughout the project, partners will gather critical data about cost, digestibility, nutritional quality and carbon footprint of the new type of sustainable animal feed, he said. "Each of the project's partners is playing an active role in the development of the process and generation of this critical data, harnessing their involvement and shared knowledge in the field of carbon emissions, the production supply chain, and ground-breaking biotechnology and technology, to create sustainable protein feed sources that will contribute to reducing the environmental impact of meat production systems," Rowe added.
The consortium also includes the Scottish Aquaculture Innovation Centre and research groups from the University of Edinburgh, the University of Nottingham and the University of Stirling.
Commercialisation of Deep Branch's "transformational" technology, Rowe said, would only be possible with cooperation across the agriculture value chain. "Even though relationships within these verticals are well established, the project represents the first time that the resources and expertise of all parties have been unified towards a single goal," he said.
Melanie Welham, executive director of the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), part of UK Research and Innovation, said the projects and others awarded funding on Friday would "help increase UK agricultural productivity and global competitiveness".
"At UKRI our aim is to turn the food production sector into a beacon of innovation," she explained. "Brilliant ideas like this one go a long way to making food production more sustainable, efficient and less carbon intensive but they need support to get them from the drawing board to the farm."
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