The world faces a dual challenge – supporting the growing demand for resources to meet the needs of an expanding population while also addressing critical sustainability issues. To support this, organizations around the globe are looking into solutions across the different value chains to contribute to and reduce the impact of climate change.
I recently had the chance to talk with Monika Klier and Bart Akerboom from Arkeon. Arkeon is a Vienna-based biotech company that creates sustainable protein ingredients by utilizing CO2 emissions from industry. Using a patented process, Arkeon produces all 20 amino acids essential to human health; developing functional, climate-positive ingredients for food. Monika oversees the development of new products and the improvement of existing products, while Bart is responsible for upscaling lab-proven processes for production facilities. Recently, Arkeon teamed with AspenTech to use its Performance Engineering suite to support the development and scale of their work.
Gerardo Munoz (GM): Monika, how does Arkeon’s technology contribute to mitigating the effects of climate change?
Monika Klier (MK): Arkeon’s proprietary technology uses carbon dioxide emissions from industry, converting waste CO2 into a valuable product. This helps to reduce emissions from industrial sources and contributes to the carbon-capture value chain. Our technology also provides an alternative to traditional protein and food production. Agriculture is a big contributor to ecosystem degradation and greenhouse gas emissions, using animals, land and lots of water.
We produce protein ingredients via a one-step fermentation process that uses just 0.01% of the amount of water used in conventional agriculture and we have an incredibly low environmental impact since we don’t rely on land like conventional agriculture. Our process is all-natural and uses more carbon dioxide than it produces, making it a climate-positive process that is creating a real impact to reverse climate change.
GM: Why did Arkeon choose AspenTech to collaborate in this exciting journey?
MK: AspenTech has fantastic grounds for innovation. We have been working on our technology for the past couple of years. It is very innovative and highly sophisticated. We need rigorous and highly sophisticated programs and tools, like the ones offered by AspenTech, to help accelerate our process and bring it successfully to scale.
When we were looking at our partners, AspenTech consultants understood our requirements and where the solution was going to help. This really stood out as we follow the same approach with our clients. We could see that we have many similarities and because of that, we could collaborate along the journey.
GM: What are the challenges you see while bringing innovative technologies to scale?
Bart Akerboom (BA): The main challenge is delivering the same results as we scale to production and commercial facilities. As we scale, it is very important to understand the process, the mass and energy balances, and how the parameters change.
And as we scale, the workload also increases. On a large scale, it gets very complicated to handle everything by hand. And there is an increased complexity in operations to keep things up and running. We have very innovative technology. But to build sustainable production processes, we need to be highly efficient, especially with regard to our energy use. As a biotech company, digital tools like the ones from AspenTech bring a lot of value.
GM: Why do you feel AspenTech is relevant for the work that you do at Arkeon?
BA: AspenTech software gives us confidence in bringing our processes to commercial scale quickly and effectively. With Aspen Plus® modeling, for example, we can do a proper technical and economic assessment of the process and compare different unit operations to make it economically viable. The modeling tools help to better understand the process so we can successfully bring it to a commercial scale. As we have a better understanding of our process at a large scale, AspenTech’s expertise can also help us to optimize our energy requirements, supporting the development of more efficient and sustainable production processes.
GM: What’s next for Arkeon?
MK: While we've proven that amino acids can be produced with gas fermentation using CO2 as the input for the conversion process, we now have to build out this new way of production on a large, industrial scale. Arkeon is a connecting piece of an entirely new industry. We see the opportunity for a significant impact on emissions-heavy industries as we offer them a chance to significantly reduce their carbon footprint while positively contributing to future food security. We’re excited to build this future together with strong, like-minded partners. And we’re happy to have AspenTech’s innovative solutions with us along the way.