Novozymes’ Yeast Beast in New Release; Innova Lift’s Yield Revealed 

October 9, 2018 |

In North Carolina, Novozymes launched its next yeast technology, Innova Lift, for the starch-based ethanol industry. The product follows the launch earlier this year of its ambitious yeast platform, Innova, and the first product, Drive. 

The Need to Knows

• Lift is targeted to plants with longer fermentation times, generally 57 hours or more – delivering greater tolerance to common causes of yeast stress, the opportunity for better yields, and eliminating costly yeast food, which is common amongst competitive cream yeast. 

• Lift remains effective through fermentation temperature spikes up to 98°F (36.7°C) – significantly higher than the 94°F that most other yeasts can tolerate 

• Producers can eliminate downtime, cut cooling costs and maximize the plants’ efficiency, while achieving up to 2-4% better yields, compared to conventional dry yeasts 

The yeast backstory

(You’re a yeast expert? Go ahead and skip to the next section.)

Yeast converts raw materials into ethanol. Same stuff that converts grape juice into wine, or grain into whiskey. Corn goes into the plant and is broken down by enzymes to prepare it for fermentation. During fermentation, yeast is added. The yeast consumes the raw materials and releases ethanol and carbon dioxide. Ethanol producers spend a lot of time and energy ensuring that the right conditions exist for yeast to thrive. The stronger and more efficient the yeast, the better able it is to tolerate production stresses and generate ethanol – improving productivity and profitability. 

What is it?

Novozymes’ yeast platform, Innova, has been founded on new S. cerevisiae yeast – utilizing proprietary methods to enhance its ability to withstand the rigors of today’s ethanol production processes and goals. 

Innova Lift expresses a glucoamylase that is two times more effective at converting difficult-to-reach starch. When paired with advanced enzyme solutions, Lift also has the potential to significantly increase ethanol yields, reduce fermentation risks and eliminate costly inputs, while improving performance reliability. 

In short, it rounds out the portfolio — a complement to Drive, rather than cannabalizing Drive’s fan base. As we’ve seen in the world of ethanol, some prefer to run longer fermentation times, some do not. It’s proven more efficient to customize organisms to meet the range in customer needs, rather than shoehorn the industry into “one size fits all”. 

But it’s not a no-brainer. Different fermentation run times mean different glucose availability requirements, different nutrient targets. 

An ethanol plant’s fermentation is a crucial part of securing better yields. However, the fermentation process is also tricky; even small spikes in temperature or organic acid levels can cause disruptions. Having the opportunity to use a robust yeast can help producers meet these two key challenges. 

What’s Novozymes up to with this dizzying pace?

We’re just six months or so after the first announce from Planet Novozymes.Yikes, that was swift.  Fast is getting faster, and yeast is becoming an “innovation pace car” of late.

Small wonder that the branding is beginning to feel a little like advanced ride-sharing technology. Drive, Lift. Perhaps Uber, Sidecar, and Drizly will follow. 

“We always want to push the pace of innovation,” Brazeau added.  “Not because how fast we can spin the invention machine, but  in order to have a solution ready for customers – ready at the pace they want to go at.

Future Shock

Numerous ethanol plants have begun using Novozymes’ yeast since the introduction of the Innova platform and are realizing the benefits in productivity. But real-world operators often look askance at new strains. There’s the race to be second adopter.

In some ways, innovation itself is a problem — in days gone by, the more impressive the strain’s yields, the less robust in the day-to-day of plant operations. There were a lot of lab rats — rather than ship rats, the kind that survive anything. Thoroughbred performance with quarter-horse endurance — that’s been hard to do, until microbiology really accelerated in recent years.

Leaving the tantalyzing possibiolity that improvements in robustness won’t come in the future without “yield drag”.

They talk about Goldilocks organisms — just right. But we think the industry would be better served with a passel of Shackletons. That is, endurance and performance that passeth understanding.

Back to the Here and Now

Given the pace and timing of the innovation schedule, you may find yourself concerned that Novozymes’ Yeast team has been hidden away in an industrial Black Site somewhere on Mars where they have 25-hour days and few distractions, working on a microorganism captured via an comet landing.

Worry no more. It’s just the performance that is other-worldly.

What’s Next?

Novozymes ain’t saying, but we speculate there’s another release coming next spring. Our spies tell us the innovation pipeline is bursting, and it’s almost impossible to think that they’ll bottle all of it up for another 12 months. 

Having said that, expect that innovations may be aimed at expanding the portfolio with more custom solutions rather than just offering upgrades to the existing Innova Drive and Innova Lift. What will they call it? Innova Uber? Innova Beast Mode? Innova Flat Out? Innova Unbound?

“The ethanol industry has clearly been longing for new and reliable innovation for a very long time, not just updates of old products,” Brazeau noted, and that doesn’t say much, but in some ways it telegaphs a lot.

Now, over to the competition to see how they respond to Lift.

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