In this project, researchers from University of Nottingham and Rothamsted Research aim to develop and test a novel nutritional animal feed made from methanotrophic bacteria. Methane is a low cost and sustainable feedstock that can be produced from fracking or from a variety of renewable sources, including anaerobic digestion. Methane is predominately associated with its high global warming potential as a major greenhouse gas (GHG) from the ruminant industry.
This project will look at developing uses for methane as a high-quality protein source through methanotrophic bacteria conversion, and in doing so it will tackle the two leading sustainability issues (environmental and economic) facing the livestock agricultural industry in providing sustainable protein from non-food sources and utilizing methane resources. As the world-leading methane-based protein producer, our industrial collaborator, Calysta UK, has demonstrated using methanotrophs in the commercial-scale production of nutritional ingredients and feed from methane.
Methylococcus capsulatus is their process organism, which has already been approved in the EU for feeding to farmed fish and livestock such as pigs. Methane fermentations on a large scale would reduce the demand for land to grow food for livestock. However, more research is needed on methane-based poultry feed.
Our group recently isolated a novel M. capsulatus (designated as Iso-14) which shows major differences in its DNA sequence from published type strain. Furthermore, it possesses distinctive granules (assumed to be glycogen), a feature absent in other strains. We speculate that feed made from it will have higher carbohydrate composition compared to the commercial strain from Calysta, which will make it potentially more suitable to be used for poultry feed.
In this project, we will: (i) identify the biomass composition of the newly isolated Iso-14, using type strain as control; (ii) characterize Iso-14 for its performance in gas fermentation; (iii) subject Iso-14 to adaptive laboratory evolution (ALE) to improve its fitness for biotechnology purposes; (iv) carry out a small scale animal feed test on broiler and layer chickens using poultry feed made from Iso-14, to determine its potential to replace soybean.