DeNova Inc. is heading a $6 million project to develop its first facility, which will produce protein for aquaculture feed through a process that removes greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.
There’s been a growing buzz about the three-year-old Halifax company because it is addressing two global problems – the climate crisis and the pending shortage of protein. Founder and CEO Brianna Stratton has assembled a team of partners and devised dual technologies that have the potential to make an impact in tackling both problems.
On Monday, DeNova was announced as the head of the $6 million Sustainable Protein for Aquaculture project, in which the company and its partners will develop a demonstration facility that will validate DeNova’s process at a commercial scale. Canada’s Ocean Supercluster is contributing $2.6 million to the project, with the rest of the funding coming from other partners.
“We believe that DeNova’s sustainable protein can become a significant global player in the expanding alternative proteins market and will contribute to the sustainability of our oceans and more environmentally sound aquaculture practices,” said Stratton in a statement.
In an interview, she said the company is commercializing a two-stage process that removes harmful methane from the atmosphere, and ends up with a protein that can be used in feed for aquaculture or other forms of farming.
The initial source of methane will be flare gas from oil and gas wells in Alberta, and DeNova will convert this gas into methanol. This liquid will be shipped to a production facility, where it will be used to nourish micro-organisms in bioreactors.
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Once these micro-organisms have grown, they are dried into a powder, which is the protein to be used in feed for aquaculture operations. Stratton hopes to have developed the demonstration facility in about three years, and be at full commercial production within five years.
The partners joining in the project announced Monday represent the network the company has developed, and will play a key role in scaling the technology. One is the Center for Aquaculture Technologies, which has been testing the proteins on young salmon. CAT was acquired two years ago by Cuna del Mar, an aquaculture-focused investment group backed by members of the Walton family, the founders of Walmart. Cuna del Mar is managed by Robert Orr, who is Stratton’s father and chairs the DeNova board.
The other partners in the Sustainable Protein project are Natural Products Canada (which has invested in DeNova), Dalhousie University, the National Research Council of Canada, Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, and Cooke Aquaculture.
DeNova now has a team of 12 members, and Stratton highlighted that females make up four-fifths of its management team and half its R&D team.
“The company has been built from the problem outward and not necessarily just focusing on the technology,” said Stratton. During the interview, she mentioned repeatedly that the team has been focused on four pillars throughout its development: first, producing a high-quality protein to meet the critical demand; second, producing a sustainable protein to benefit the environment; third, using low-cost ingredients so the company will be profitable while fulfilling its missions; and fourth, making it massively scalable so DeNova will have an impact.
“The global demand for sustainable sources of protein continues to rise,” said Natural Products Canada CEO Shelley King. “DeNova’s cutting-edge technology meets the protein crisis head-on while also creating a solution to help industries reduce their greenhouse gases.”