Novel approach to protein recovery from unutilized slaughterhouse waste through microbial conversion.


Especially in the last decade, the number of biofuels and biobased chemicals which can be obtained through microbial fermentation technologies has continuously increased. Nevertheless, a major step towards the sustainable and cost-effective production of such new biocommodities will certainly be the possibility to employ, to a larger extent, cheaper and widely available renewable feedstocks such as residual biomass and organic waste materials. This project is part of a larger multi-partner research project, namely “Keratin2Protein”, where the potential of novel process technologies will be investigated in order to efficiently convert organic agro-industrial residual biomass into new alternative added-value products. Specifically, tailor-made microbial consortia, which can be cultivated in an industrial process for keratin degradation, will be employed to valorize slaughterhouse keratin-rich by-products for production of protein-enriched feed. In particular, the project focus, on the one hand, on the development and optimization of fermentation protocols to cultivate microbial consortia for efficient keratin biodegradation and, on the other hand, on the implementation of mathematical, deterministic, models describing microbial interactions within these synthetic ecological webs.

The project

A large part of the research efforts for the production of fuels and chemicals from renewable resources have focused on the identification and engineering of single microbial cell factories in order to utilize complex substrate mixtures. Nevertheless, microbial species living in a large variety of naturally occurring environments have, after billions of years, evolved towards the formation of highly efficient consortia in which they perform multiple tasks in a synergistic manner. In particular, at the community level, this cooperation gives rise to higher-order properties such as improved stability, optimized use of the available nutritional and energetic resources, enhanced substrate degradation rates etc. Within this context, microbial communities can be defined as complex adaptive systems which dynamically adjust their structure and function in response to external stimuli – that is to changes in the environmental conditions.

One of the major challenges in developing models capable to predict the structural and dynamic behavior of a microbial consortium is the complex relationship describing the inter-specific interactions that are established both in between community members and with respect to their local environment and the resulting physiological phenotypes expressed by each individual species.

This project focuses on the development of mechanistic models which will be used as simulation platforms to obtain a more clear insight into the interplay between different consortia members. In particular, these models will be employed to design and optimize synthetic microbial consortia for the efficient degradation of keratin-rich residual biomass.


Krist V. Gernaey
DTU Chemical Engineering
+45 45 25 29 70