Alex Beliaev will have a role in an Australian rural research and development program getting underway this fall that will convert animal wastes into valuable products, including fertilizers, energy, and - the specific contribution of his team - single-celled proteins that nutritionally enhance animal feed.
Broadly, the new program in several livestock regions of Australia mix of public and private funding to develop technologies and business models designed to capture a waste-to-wealth market opportunity that could be worth $100 million a year by 2025.
Currently, annual waste treatment costs for the Australian red-meat industry are about $200 million.
"We want to integrate our bioreactor system. One of the biggest challenges in agriculture is cheap protein - large quantities at a low price."
For Beliaev, the project creates an opportunity to put into large-scale practice a microbial co-culture technology developed by his team at PNNL that converts methane and carbon dioxide from natural gas or biogas into microbial biomass, as outlined in a recent paper.
Hardware development will start in the September-October timeframe. Anaerobic digesters that already create biogas from animal waste will be coupled with the PNNL co-cultivation, bioreactor-based platform. (A patent was completed last year.) "We want to integrate our bioreactor system," said Beliaev, in order to produce proteins, vitamins, micronutrients, and enzymes beneficial to livestock. "One of the biggest challenges in agriculture is cheap protein - large quantities at a low price."