Feeding The Future

How biotechnology can enable more sustainable food systems

DSM regards biotechnology as a key enabler to develop more sustainable products, processes and solutions for the agriculture & food sector that are safe, healthy and scalable. We speak with DSM Chief Technology Officer, Marcus Remmers, about the developments in the field of alternative proteins, the need for more collaboration and open innovation, and DSM’s biotechnology activities in Austria, this year’s EFIB host country.

Marcus Remmers
Chief Technology Officer
DSM

 

Our society is crying out for change. We need to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, move away from linear models toward more circular, bio-based ways of living, and develop more efficient and sustainable food systems. Biotechnology is a key enabler as we work towards these challenges – as biotechnology can support the development of sustainable and bio-based products, processes and solutions for the agriculture & food sector that are safe, healthy and scalable.

A few examples of how DSM, together with its partners, is already using their scientific know-how and innovation power to address some of these challenges:

  • DSM and Cargill found a way to develop a zero-calorie sweetener derived from Stevia plants, as alternative for sugar – helping to fight obesity. Using modified yeast over the cultivation of stevia plants saves farmland and water, while the production process is more efficient, easier to scale-up, and the quality is consistent.
  • DSM and Evonik started a JV to produce omega-3 fatty acids from marine-microalgae with the help of biotechnology. One kilo of omega-3 oil from microalgae saves 60 kilos of wild-caught fish – helping to protect marine habitats and biodiversity.

The market for plant-based, vegetarian and vegan options is booming. Increasing numbers of consumers are adopting a ‘flexitarian’ approach to mealtimes, prompted by among other things, health and well-being, and environmental considerations. They look to add tasty plant-based alternatives alongside traditional meat and dairy choices. As alternatives become mainstream, consumer expectations become more sophisticated.

Crafting a winning recipe for meat or dairy alternatives poses food & beverage producers with a complex challenge. They need to deliver the taste and flavor, and texture and mouthfeel consumers demand, while at the same time providing an appealing nutritional profile, and keeping salt, sugar and gluten levels manageable. Meanwhile, they aim to use sustainably-produced ingredients and processes. Alongside the culinary art of the chef, this calls for a scientific understanding of the options available.

DSM offers a unique breadth of solutions to help F&B companies tackle these challenges and delight consumers. From umami-packed savory taste ingredients, through fermentation-derived and naturally extracted gelling and texturizing ingredients, across efficiency-boosting enzymes, to vitamins, nutritional lipids and other essential micronutrients, and high-end plant proteins.

Continuous innovation is necessary to open up future pathways – and there is no innovation without collaboration. Only by working closely with our partners can we drive progress and develop innovative solutions that advance society. Around the world, DSM’s biotechnology experts take part in academic partnerships, public–private partnerships, venturing projects and joint ventures.

For instance, DSM develops new products through joint ventures like Veramaris, Avansya and Olatein, and through partnerships with Novozymes, Centrient, Amyris and Syngenta. At the same time, we collaborate closely with start-ups, small and medium enterprises and other early-stage biotechnology innovators. For example, two of our recent investments in the field of alternative proteins are:

  • Meatable – an innovative, Dutch food company, aiming to deliver, at scale, the new natural, cultivated meat that looks like, tastes like, and has the nutritional profile of traditional meat.
  • Deep branche – a carbon dioxide recycling company that uses microorganisms to convert clean CO2 into high quality products to enable global sustainable animal nutrition.

Furthermore, as a founding partner of the Biotech Campus in Delft, an open innovation ecosystem, we support progress across the whole innovation cycle: from R&D, to piloting, to full-scale production and commercialization.

Meanwhile, we take part in public–private partnerships and consortia such as the Bio-based Industries Consortium. Our scientific experts also liaise with their counterparts in the world of academia, fostering academic partnerships with more than 20 of the world’s top universities and institutes, and take part in over 100 leading academic conferences each year. In this way, we continuously develop our competences in close collaboration with leading innovators, universities and institutes. Together, we harness the long-term potential of biotechnology.

In 2020, DSM acquired Austrian based Erber Group’s Biomin and Romer Labs. Biomin, Erber Group’s specialty animal nutrition and health business, specializes primarily in mycotoxin risk management and gut health performance management, whereas the Romer Labs business focuses on food and feed safety diagnostic solutions. Both expand DSM’s range of higher value-add specialty solutions.

The acquisition of Biomin further strengthens DSM’s expertise and reputation as a leading provider of animal health and nutrition solutions for farm productivity and sustainability, with an emphasis on emissions reduction, feed consumption efficiency, and better use of water and land. It is therefore very much aligned with DSM’s focus to make animal farming more sustainable from both an ecological and economical perspective.

Romer Labs also complements DSM’s human nutrition and health offering to customers in the food & beverages market segments. 

Marcus Remmers, a German national, is Chief Technology Officer at Royal DSM, based in Geleen (the Netherlands). As CTO, Marcus is responsible for Royal DSM’s global Science and Technology portfolio. He graduated in Chemistry at the Universities of Münster and Freiburg and finalized his Doctorate Thesis at the Max-Planck-Institute for Polymer Chemistry in Mainz and did research at Stanford, Caltech and Cambridge. Marcus has strong knowledge and experience in polymer and life sciences R&D, business operations, business development, strategy and change management. 

Click here for Marcus’ profile on Linkedin