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Lanzatech, Indian researchers develop new way of producing omega-3 fatty acids

LanzaTech, the New Zealand-founded carbon recycling company, and a research team from India's IOC-DBT Center for Advanced Bio-Energy Research have developed a way of using carbon dioxide emissions to produce omega-3 rich fatty acids.

Omega-3 oils have become a multi-billion-dollar business because of their nutritional benefits, sold in capsule form, although they are most commonly consumed through eating oily fish.

LanzaTech and its Indian partner have now produced the oils through recycling carbon dioxide gases using Lanzatech's microbial processes. The microbes produce acetate that is then consumed as energy and carbon by a proprietary algae developed by the Indian team. The algae are rich in omega-3 fatty acids and can be used as a fish meal substitute or the fish oil can be extracted and purified as an omega-3 lipid product.

LanzaTech chief executive Jennifer Holmgren said having a platform that can produce sustainable food and fuels economically and at scale turns the issue of food versus fuels on its head.

"LanzaTech has long focused on increasing energy access and today we are a step closer to increasing access to affordable nutrition for all," she said.

A pilot plant facility will be set up at IOC next year to integrate the OIC and LanzaTech processes. IOC is jointly funded by the Indian government, the Department of Biotechnology, and the Indian Oil Corporation.

The process closely parallels LanzaTech's gas-to-fuels technology and that experience will help rapidly commercialise the omega-3 fatty acids, it said. The company captures carbon-rich gases from large industrial operations such as steel plants and uses microbes to recycle the waste gas.

It has successfully operated two 100,000 gallons-per-annum demonstration facilities in China that convert waste flue gas from steel plants into ethanol. Construction is due to begin later this year on larger-scale facilities with full commercial operations slated to start in 2015.

Its facility with Capital Steel in China earned a world-first sustainability certification from the Roundtable for Sustainable Biomaterials last year and it is now working with the RSB to certify the process across other uses.

It is also the low-carbon fuel partner for Richard Branson's airline Virgin Atlantic.

Founded in New Zealand in 2005, LanzaTech now has offices in the US, Europe, China, India and New Zealand. In April it shifted its main research and development hub and 30 staff to Illinois from Auckland.

It has raised more than $160 million from investors that included Stephen Tindall's K1W1 and clean-tech investor Khosla Ventures and had more than $14 million in New Zealand government funding since its inception.

BusinessDesk receives funding to help cover the commercialisation of innovation from Callaghan Innovation.