In the future, when archaeologists dig down and hit the first part of the 21st Century, they might reveal this era as the Age of Waste. They’d find proof from the ice cores and scientific reports of the day showing CO2 levels climb sharply since the 1950s in line with a worldwide boom in emissions as the whole world incorporated a fossil fuel-based economy.
Then there’d be the news rampant with stories of plastic rubbish making flotillas on the Pacific, burning in toxic fires nearby obstructed South East Asian ports, along with the long cries of other carbon-rich waste related with industrial manufacture, the housing demands of a quickly increasing global population, chemical fertilizers and the residue and gaseous eructs of around 30 billion cows, pigs, chickens, and sheep.
In this age and day, those who are aware of the grave consequences of carbon dioxide emission are demanding for a dramatic reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, and rapidly, for fear that we will be thrown into the hot, acid seas of the next era – the Age of Extinction.
Nevertheless, while many condemn the overindulgences of our modern world, others sense an in-built prospect. One person’s leftover is a courageous entrepreneur’s source material. In the Age of Waste, carbon-rich industrial by-products and CO2 are lemons to those who appreciate that nature has held the ingredients to make delicious lemonade all along.
In our ponds, forests, seas, and fields, there are zillions of species that are present and flourish thanks to their skill to turn carbon from CO2 into starch, sugars, and a wide range of other molecules. Some of those particles we can use as fuel while others can be eaten. We can use yet more as originators to produce fertilizers, pesticides, bio-based medicines, and many more compounds that presently pollute, but that can be manufactured in an eco-friendly and maintainable way.
What is Synthetic Biology, you ask? Synthetic Biology (or SynBio for short) is a relatively newer field of science that involves redesigning organisms for useful purposes by engineering them to have new/different abilities. Instead of the Age of Extinction, forerunners in the field of biotechnology are fast-moving us into the Age of Synthetic Biology. These are the 5 SynBio companies having a positive influence on the climate crisis.
NovoNutrients is one more synbio company targeting big while confronting three significant universal problems altogether – making a sustainable substitute for fishmeal for the good of the climate, global food security, and the wild fish in our oceans.
Fishmeal is an essential ingredient in many forms of aquaculture. However, due to the effects of overfishing and the hike in demand and the rising price of fishmeal as a consequence, the industry – which is vital for food security as well as socioeconomically – could suffer a lot.
NovoNutrients’ novel biotech solution involves microorganisms that change not just CO2, but even toxic waste products such as cyanide and hydrogen sulfide, into a protein called Novomeal. Produced through the gas fermentation of industrial remains, including oil refineries and cement plants, Novomeal has the power to convert aquaculture. This industry wants 400 billion wild fish to be caught and crushed up into fishmeal every year.
The main objective of the company, which moved a stage nearer to completion with $300,000 financing from the US Department of Energy last year, is to completely substitute fishmeal used for aquaculture with their ecological alternative, functioning “to capture carbon, not fish.”
A company “turning crisis into a feedstock opportunity,” LanzaTech reprocesses the polluting products of the industry into biofuels and other carbon-based products. Their procedure uses a kind of anaerobic bacteria, which were initially discovered in rabbit feces, in bioreactors to manufacture ethanol from waste gas.
LanzaTech was ranked as the number 1 company in The Biofuel Digest’s “50 Hottest Companies in the Advanced Bioeconomy” for the third year consecutively. It started in New Zealand and centered in Illinois, USA. LanzaTech is instituting itself at “the center of what will certainly be the new carbon economy,” according to CEO, Jennifer Holmgren.
The company’s disturbing innovations include the world’s first commercial factory to transform waste gas into ethanol for biofuels in China, along with a revolutionary project with Virgin Atlantic to manufacture a maintainable jet fuel that will assist clean up one of the world’s most polluting segments.
Over many years of synthetic biology-driven progress of their distinctive bacterial chassis, the company can manufacture hundreds of new products, including multifaceted, high-value chemicals.
3. Carbo Culture
A 2018 IPBES report established that 75% of the world’s land areas are ruined, which costs the global economy up to $10 trillion in the harm of vital ecosystem services, including food production. Well-timed, then, that California-based Carbo Culture last year got $550,000 of seed funding for their bioengineering solution that targets to “clean the air, to heal the soils.”
Carbo Culture is seizing three tons of atmospheric CO2 into each ton of their biochar – a substance that can be combined into the earth and does not just sequester carbon, but can restock soils by stimulating water and nutrient storage, in addition to improving bacterial activity.
The Finnish company utilizes waste biomass, such as walnut shells, and a thermocycler that can be installed where it is required. As CEO and also the co-founder of the company, Henrietta Kekäläinen wrote in her current blog, “Our “manufacturing 2.0” approach means that we can carry our agile little factory next to the deposit of the waste, and on a worldwide scale, this means everywhere.”
Bearing in mind that soil stocks more carbon than all of the Earth’s biomass and the atmosphere put together, and is essential to make 95% of our food, this is a resolution that we can all get on board with.
4. String Bio
String Bio wants to “revolutionize how waste moves through our ecosystem,” especially methane. Otherwise recognized as natural gas, methane is many times stronger than CO2 in triggering global warming, and comprises of over 15% of global greenhouse gas emissions mainly due to the burps of cows, leakages in the gas supply, and release from heaps of decaying landfill.
This year, the Indian-based company held funding from a range of Asian and European investors, including India’s leading crude oil and natural gas company, Oil & Natural Gas Corporation.
5. Pivot Bio
Sticking to the soil, agriculture production would be lingering far behind worldwide demand for food if it were not for the wide range deployment of fertilizers that allow high yielding crop variations to grow.
Fertilizer overflow is also a major cause of eutrophication in our lakes, rivers, and seas, adding to dead zones such as the 7,000 square mile expanse of oxygen exhausted water in the Gulf of Mexico. To worsen the environmental blow, nitrous oxide released from surplus fertilizer application is also hundreds of times more potent than CO2 when it comes to trapping heat in our warming globe.
The world desires a more durable substitute – and Pivot Bio has the solution: a clean alternative to synthetic fertilizers using bacteria that naturally take nitrogen from the air and fix it straight into the roots of our crops. Not unknown to nature, there are ample of bacteria that already do this in large quantity in friendly relations with peas and other legumes. Now, Pivot Bio is creating constructive root-microbe relationships work with our most nitrogen-hungry cereals, such as corn.
Pivot’s microbes not only get in and around corn roots, but they also make available nitrogen throughout their growth cycle – giving a continual daily dose that allows farmers to utilize less synthetic fertilizer. An ongoing success story that can help decrease the 5% of greenhouse gas emissions triggered by artificial fertilizers, Pivot Bio’s strong 2020 term is set to increase an extra 5 million corn acres across more than 20 states in 2021.
The Period of Synthetic Biology
The past decade has seen over $12 billion of investment in synthetic biology. This arena can upset the most polluting sectors, from agriculture and food through to consumer goods and materials and chemicals.
In flora and fauna where nature moans under the burden of industrial pollution, the companies motivating the growth in synthetic biology don’t anticipate deterioration – but are guiding us into a future in which we mobilize what nature gave us, adjust it to resolve new challenges and flourish on the results. We believe that the forthcoming will be the Age of Synthetic Biology.