A Bengaluru-based firm, String Bio, has built a platform to convert methane into various solutions such as biostimulants for crops, animal feed and alternative protein for human consumption to reduce the release of the greenhouse gas that is 80 times more potent than carbon dioxide.
Since 2014, String Bio, one of the world leaders in gas fermentation, has had a strong IP (intellectual property) protected platform called String Integrated Methane Platform which enables the production of high-quality ingredients from methane via the fermentation process.
Though firms in the US and Europe convert methane, the Bengaluru-based firm differs from them as it converts methane from biogas for fermentation, says Ezhil Subbian, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer, String Bio.
It is the only global player with a commercial solution for such a technology. This enables the creation of carbon-friendly products using greenhouse gas as raw material. On the other hand, the global competitors use methane from natural gas for their process.
The conversion of methane has helped String Bio prepare a pipeline of products for various end markets starting with crop inputs for agriculture, says Subbian. One of them is ImpaKt TM, a peptide-based biostimulant, while another is CleanRise TM, a microbial-based biostimulant - both of which are used for sustainable food production.
“Both products are methane-derived, chemical-free, natural biostimulants that have multiple effects on plant growth including increased vegetative growth, enhanced root development, better soil health, stress tolerance and increased yield. They address the growing need for increased productivity and reduced greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture,” she said.
Amino acids and peptides play a critical role in maintaining various plant physiological processes. The application of Impakt improves the plant cell metabolism and signalling processes resulting in enhanced root architecture, enhanced photosynthetic rate, yield, and produce quality, said Ezhilan, who founded the firm with her husband, Vinod Kumar.
Impakt is manufactured from methane using a patented fermentation process. “The use of potent greenhouse gas for manufacturing crop inputs makes the products carbon friendly. The use of the products is better for the farmer, consumer, plant and planet. The use of Impakt has increased yield in groundnut by 25 per cent, in tomato and marigold by 20-30 per cent,” the String Bio CEO said.
These products are suitable for both conventional and organic farming systems. The Bengaluru firm has also developed a protein ingredient for animal nutrition - PROfit/PRO-DG, an alternative protein component for animal feed, besides a similar protein ingredient for human nutrition.
Ezhil said her firm has worked with many farmers across 11 States, including Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Manipur. These farmers have used String Bio’s products in over 30 crops, including paddy, maize, wheat and tomato, potato, marigold, chrysanthemum, horticultural crops, soyabean, red gram and groundnut.
Those who have worked with String Bio have been amazed with its platform’s ability to convert a gaseous material like methane into a solid such as protein through the fermentation method. The science behind the conversion has caught the attention of people of various ages, she said.
“When we initially started talking about microbial protein, we had to educate our audience - we had a series of questions from ‘How is your protein different from paneer?’ to ‘can you make sushi with this protein?’ The overall space has evolved significantly these last five years. Today, the average urban customer is much more aware of alternative proteins and their impact,” the String Bio co-founder and CEO said.
After the company was set up seven years ago, it initially focused on core technology development. Over the last couple of years, the company has achieved key milestones about technology and product development.
String Bio has now established a patent-protected technology platform for using greenhouse gas as a raw material for manufacturing, besides setting up the first commercial multi-purpose gas fermentation plant in Bengaluru. It has also validated and scaled its gas fermentation process using methane from natural gas and biogas.
It has also developed methane-derived products for multiple end uses, and its development works have earned it quite a few national and global awards, including the Future Food Asia Award.