Water-based tech converts biomass into food ingredients – Renmatix and Cargill sign Joint Development Agreement

December 15, 2019 |

We love cookies as much as the Cookie Monster, but make them from sustainable ingredients and a water-based technology and that’s even more exhilarating. Functional food ingredients from unused plant materials is just what Renmatix and Cargill are aiming to explore with their new joint development agreement, but what makes this breaking news even more fascinating is that Renmatix is using their proprietary Plantrose Process which uses only water, heat and pressure. So take Cargill’s feedstocks to make functional food ingredients, add Renmatix’s Plantrose Process and you’ve got something special, like a delicious chocolate chip cookie.

What this means for food and beverage manufacturers looking to meet consumer demand for great-tasting, label-friendly ingredients is that they may have new options in the near future.

As part of the JDA, Cargill will also contribute its food applications expertise and market access to better understand the technical and commercial potential of these new ingredients. The process will be tested at Renmatix’s facility in Kennesaw, Georgia. The food applications work will happen at Cargill’s Vilvoorde and Minneapolis R&D facilities. These materials will then be market tested by Cargill’s leading customers. Both parties will then review findings. Interestingly, they are already into month 2 of the 6 month JDA, according to an exclusive Digest interview with Renmatix and Cargill.

Renmatix’s Plantrose Process

“Thousands have lived without love, not one without water.” -H. Auden

Renmatix’s manufacturing platform is versatile, in that it can handle and process a variety of biomass-feedstocks.

Mike Hamilton CEO of Renmatix said, “Renmatix uses different forms of plant based feedstocks and put through our Plantrose process to make functional food ingredients. Renmatix is currently selling a product called Nouravant, which is made through the plantrose process. With Cargill, we’ll use the Plantrose process using their preferred feedstock to make food ingredients.”

So how does this happen? Water left in its normal states (ice – liquid – steam) does not efficiently dissolve plant structures, or reduce them to the point where they can be separated into their most basic parts. Yet, Renmatix’s chemical engineers have given water superpowers to do just that by applying a distinct combination of heat and pressure to achieve a unique state, called Supercritical. Water in this special state, in essence, dissolves biomass into those simple, valuable, component parts.

The patented, proprietary and efficient Plantrose Process, utilizes Supercritical Hydrolysis to unlock a whole new range of eco-friendly innovative products using only nature’s gifts – no harsh solvents or acids needed, according to their website. And, because they use plant sources that would otherwise go to waste, their products are sustainably sourced and renewable. This new technology delivers affordable bio building blocks and original specialty ingredients that customers are using to introduce their own improved biobased offerings. Plantrose progress means building momentum for, and expansion in, a renewable products revolution.

What food ingredients or products can this be used for?

The Digest asked Hamilton this very question and he said, “Renmatix currently makes a product called Nouravant, using maple fiber. We take residual maple chips and put them through the Plantrose product to make Nouravant, which is an emulsifier. We will be taking a lower value product and upcycling it in a higher value, higher functional product through the Plantrose process.”

“The intent of this JDA is to test the use of the Plantrose technology to process unused plant materials and convert them into functional food ingredients that can be used across the food categories, from baked goods to dairy, soups and sauces, and meat products,” said Hamilton.

Yusuf Wazirzada asked Global Texturizers and Specialties Strategic Marketing Lead at Cargill added, “We will be making functional food ingredients that can act as emulsifiers or hydrocolloids in food products.”

As for what kinds of Cargill feedstocks will be used for this, Wazirzada told the Digest, “Due to the competitive nature of Cargill’s business, we are unable to disclose the specifics regarding feedstocks used or ingredients we are testing.”

Reaction from the Stakeholders

“Renmatix’s Plantrose Process, which uses only water, heat and pressure, supports our commitment to help customers deliver food and beverage products that are label-friendly, sustainable and cost-effective,” said Bruce McGoogan, Cargill strategy and business development leader. “The fact that this simple process can economically and efficiently deconstruct plant materials and convert them into functional food ingredients is a solution we’re excited to explore in order to help us feed the world.”

“The food industry is increasingly turning to plant-based ingredients to deliver a wide variety of benefits, including great taste, functionality and label-friendly appeal. Upcycling, the process of transforming unused feedstocks into new, higher-value materials, is the next step in creating a more sustainable value chain and generating exciting new product benefits,” said Renmatix CEO Mike Hamilton. “We look forward to working with an industry leader like Cargill to develop new materials that bring these benefits to more food producers.” Renmatix introduced Nouravant™ (maple fiber) this summer to the food industry and is seeing growing interest in the emulsification and freshness extending benefits of this ingredient.

Water, water everywhere

Just in the past 2 months there has been news of other companies and researchers looking at water in a whole new light and coming up with innovative ways to use H2O.

As reported in The Digest earlier this month, Yale researchers developed a catalyst that converts carbon dioxide and water into methanol using electricity. It’s a type of catalyst called a heterogeneous molecular electrocatalyst — “heterogeneous” because it’s a solid catalyst material operating in a liquid electrolyte, and “molecular” because the active site of the catalyst is a molecular structure.

In October, the Digest reported that Ecover is using InBev waste alcohol and water from alcohol-free beer to produce detergents. Both the water and ethanol in Ecover’s “Too Good to Waste” detergent line come from InBev’s beer making process, making up at least a quarter of the overall content. Ecover sees waste as a major opportunity for its business and products moving forward and is currently looking at what it can do with waste CO2 as well.

In November, researchers from the University of Houston developed a new oxygen evolution catalyst that allows for low voltage seawater electrolysis, a process that was previously impossible as no known catalyst prior to the study was able to produce hydrogen from seawater without also setting free ions of sodium, chlorine, calcium, and other problematic ions, as reported in The Digest.

Bottom Line

We all knew water was pretty amazing, after all it’s linked to survival, but this JDA means we’ve got more to watch from these two companies and what impact they might have on food and beverage ingredients.

As for where they see themselves in five years, Wazirzada told The Digest, “We’re doing this because we see a lot of commercial promise, that’s why we’re trying to validate further the technical and commercial questions that relate to that opportunity. At the end of this joint development agreement, both parties will get together, look at the work we’ve done, and possibly start working towards a commercial facility.”

Yep, you heard that right…possible commercial facility down the road. Lots to look forward to from this breaking news!

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