ONE of Scotland’s leading innovation centres has been working over the past six years to meet “head-on” the challenge of feeding the world’s anticipated population of 10 billion by 2050 in a manner that reduces the impact on our planet.

The Industrial Biotechnology Innovation Centre (IBioIC) and more than 120 of its member companies have been enabling the use of innovative industrial biotech (IB) to provide solutions to resource and environmental challenges, of which feeding the world is just one.

According to Mark Bustard, IBioIC’s chief executive, biotechnology comes into contact with almost every sector.

“Looking at waste hierarchy, one industry’s waste or by-product can deliver sustainable solutions to another industry’s problem,” he said.

“This is especially apparent in the food and drink sector where our member organisations are working to create pathways that will deliver a sustainable food system, that in turn can support society and the planet.

“In February 2018, the Scottish Government committed to reduce Scotland’s food waste by 33% by 2025. Repurposing waste products is a great application of IB.”

He said that in the food and drink “farm to fork” supply chain, one of IBioIC’s member companies – MiAlgae – is producing salmon feed from algae which had been grown using whisky “co-products” in a process that “significantly reduces carbon emissions”.

Argent Energy, another member company, is the country’s leading sustainable biodiesel producer, making clean, green fuel from waste by-products from the food industry – used cooking oil, waste animal fats and the like.

Bustard said: “The opportunities that the IB platform offers is endless; tomato skins and seeds into a zero-calorie sugar substitute, egg shells into picnicware, and even langoustine shells into sustainable food packaging.

“All these are examples of repurposing waste resources to produce or process materials, chemicals and energy, and support the delivery of a truly circular economy.”

Biotechnology firms in Scotland are also using “feedstocks” from agriculture, marine and forestry to sustainably develop potential sources of protein and wider nutritional products – helping meet growing global demand for sustainable protein for either human consumption or animal feed for our agriculture and aquaculture sectors.

Bustard said it is clear IB is an enabling technology that can help to address some of the food concerns the world is facing.

The most significant challenge has been Covid-19, which had impacted every aspect of life.

“Post-pandemic, we need to build security into key supply chains ... The continued growth and large-scale application of biotechnology will help to improve food security and help to deliver the green recovery.

“We have the tools at the ready to ensure a sustainable IB eco-system can be in place, but we need industry and sectors to adapt their behaviours; to consider their processes, their supply chains, and how they can do this in a more sustainable way and taking a cross-sector approach.

“Once that happens and becomes the norm, the benefit will be huge.

“We will be able to feed the world without compromising the planet.”