ERA CoBioTech/Sustainable biopolymer [ACHEMA]

Project: PostDoc

Project Details


This project combines plant and industrial biotechnology to increase the value of commercially grown tobacco with products that can sustainably substitute fossil raw materials. We aim to establish an economically feasible production system for the biopolymer cyanophycin (CGP) as a byproduct without relevant additional costs, which can be adopted by farmers and biotech companies in Argentina.

CGP is a biopolymer of β-Asp-Arg dipeptides, which is produced naturally by cyanobacteria and can be used as both a valuable N-rich ingredient for the feed industry and as a novel biopolymer for the chemical and material industry. The heterologous production of CGP has already been established in bacteria, yeast and tobacco plants with yields up to 40%, 21% and 9.4% dry weight, respectively. None of these were translated into an industrial production system or brought to market application.

This project aims at achieving its goals with a consortium of five expert research centers and industries in the area of tobacco and CGP, namely Bioceres (Argentina), University of Rostock and the Leuphana University (Germany), Wageningen University and Research Centre (Netherlands) and Idroedil (Italy). The project tasks are organized in three Workpackages (WP’s) focusing on 1. Optimization of CGP production by existing CGP-producing tobacco varieties, efficient CGP isolation from tobacco and development of CGP application, 2. Introduction of CGP-production in the Solaris tobacco bred for high oil content, implementation of resulting CGP-tobacco lead events in tobacco-growing sites in Argentina and development of CGP, oil and protein isolation protocols for a pilot plant and 3. Social and Economic impacts of the novel CGP-producing tobacco cultivars.

In WP1, CGP-production by modified Virgin and Burley tobacco will be optimized on the field, focusing on leaves and seeds as source. For optimal extraction of CGP, a biorefinery concept will be developed based on the Grassa technology developed for extraction of proteins and other nutrients. The isolated CGP can be used either as ingredient/N-source for the feed industry, as a biopolymer as such, as a basis for novel biopolymers after chemical conversion to diaminobutane, and/or for production of polyaspartate after mild hydrolysis (to polyaspartate and arginine). These novel biopolymers will be tested alone, in blends/mixtures or in combination with other biopolymers such as starch, cellulose and lignin, some of which are also components of the tobacco plant.

In WP2, CGP production will be introduced in the Solaris tobacco. This variety has been developed for its ability to grow under marginal conditions and for high oil- and no nicotine content. This tobacco oil is a potential, local, source for biofuel. By combining the production of biodiesel, protein, fiber and CGP, the economics for this process should become more favorable.

Finally, in WP3, the economics and social impact of CGP-production by the different tobacco varieties will be assessed. A socio-economic, partial equilibrium, model will be developed to predict the effect of CGP-production, farming, processing, retailing, etc. in Argentina and in the partner countries. A Technical Economic Evaluation and Life Cycle Analysis will be conducted for the process of CGP-production by tobacco. For this, the production costs for CGP by tobacco will also be compared with other existing CGP-producers such as the Cyanobacteria, E.coli or the modified yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae).

With this approach, the consortium expects to develop strong alternatives for the tobacco industry, in general, and especially to geographical areas such as (Northern) Argentina that rely strongly on the growth of this crop.

The processes and outcomes of the project will be aligned with socio-economic issues of the countries involved, thereby providing knowledge for implementation.
Effective start/end date4/06/184/06/21


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