08: Turning CO2 into food. Interview with Arkeon Founder Gregor Tegl.
After obtaining his PhD at the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences Vienna, Gregor continued his dedication to environmental biotechnology at the University of British Columbia Vancouver, Canada, researching enzymes for the sustainable production of complex macromolecules. His passion for food and sustainable eating ignited a 5+ year long journey of exploring microbes to produce next-generation nutrients and food ingredients. Gregor’s scientific expedition resulted in an entirely new method of producing alternative proteins using CO2 – without the need for any agricultural inputs, changing agriculture the way we know it.
In this episode, I am talking with Gregor Tegl, the co-founder of Arkeon. A food tech startup which turns CO2 into food by using a gas fermentation process to produce amino acids and peptides.
We will talk about what amino acids are, why they are essential for our health and food system - and not only for bodybuilders. Why 3 scientists would like to produce them on Mars and what scale really means for producing green and carbon negative proteins for our food system.
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What are amino acids and peptides?
Amino acids are known as the building blocks of protein, which is an important component of every cell in your body. https://www.webmd.com/diet/foods-high-in-amino-acids#1
The body needs 20 different amino acids to maintain good health and normal functioning. People must obtain 9 of these amino acids, called the essential amino acids, through food. Good dietary sources include meat, eggs, tofu, soy, buckwheat, quinoa, and dairy. A healthy body can manufacture the other 11 amino acids, so these do not usually need to enter the body through the diet. Amino acids build muscles, cause chemical reactions in the body, transport nutrients, prevent illness, and carry out other functions. Amino acid deficiency can result in decreased immunity, digestive problems, depression, fertility issues, lower mental alertness, slowed growth in children, and many other health issues. → The magic pill for health issues :) https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/324229
Peptides are smaller versions of proteins. Many health and cosmetic products contain different peptides for many uses, such as their potential anti-aging, anti-inflammatory, or muscle building properties. Recent research indicates that some types of peptides could have a beneficial role in slowing down the aging process, reducing inflammation, and destroying microbes. People may confuse peptides with proteins. Both proteins and peptides are made up of amino acids, but peptides contain far fewer amino acids than proteins. Like proteins, peptides are naturally present in foods. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/326701
What is the impact of food / animal protein on CO2?
In this episode we are addressing the following questions:
What led you to found Arkeon and maybe prior where is the name Arkeon coming from?
You are 3 scientists who co-founded Arkeon. What has been your aspiration to go from science into commercialization?
How are they produced currently? And why is that a problem for the environment?
How big is the problem you would like to solve?
Tell me more about the fermentation process to convert CO2 into these components? For non scientists :)
When are you going to be able to produce it at scale? Can you put it into perspective? How long would it take you to create all amino acids for a vegan burger? How expensive would the burger be?
How would a reactor look like if you would be able to supply amino acids for Germany? What is the size?
You are writing that you are carbon neutral. Can you explain this?
Where do you get the co2 from?
Is it realistically to meet the worldwide demand of amino acids with this process?
Do you have competitors in this space?
As a retailer or manufacturer who would like to use these amino acids as base for their food products. Where do you need to go? Is there already a solution?
Great quotes from the episode by Gregor:
Gaining back awareness of what we are putting into ourselves will not only help us to be healthier but also the planet.
We went into science because we strongly believe that science can advance the way that we are doing things on this planet. We always wanted to invent processes that are more sustainable than the existing ones on the planet.
By eating Arkeon ingredients, you eat up CO2!
Amino acids are the building blocks of protein, that's how a protein and every protein on this planet is built up.
We developed a technology that allows us to produce all the amino acids in one natural fermentation.
Arkeon Biotechnologies leverages the power of ancient microbes to create the most sustainable, nutritious, and ethical food. The company uses highly efficient microorganisms to produce customizable functional protein ingredients for the next generation of alternative protein food products. Arkeon’s proprietary technology is fully independent from agricultural land and directly converts CO2 into a range of clean label ingredients that are GMO-free and 100% vegan. The company holds the key to unlock a food system without resource constraints, without geographical restrictions and free from animal suffering.