Big ideas can come from very small beginnings. In the case of one Minnesota company, fermentation of a low value agriculture byproduct is the foundation for an innovative process that yields high-protein feed ingredients.

Minneapolis-based startup Sanos Nutrition plans to produce amino acid-balancing single-cell protein ingredients for animal feed. The ingredients would be sustainable sources of highly nutritional proteins derived from yeast, rather than from fish meal or spray dried plasma, which are frequently used today.

In a system similar to the production of baker’s yeast, Sanos uses a controlled aerobic fermentation process to produce its high density yeast products.

“The output of the process is a dried, inactive yeast product similar to nutritional yeast,” says Sanos Nutrition CEO and founder Manuel Santana. “We anticipate that by combining additional process modifications with genetic editing, we can achieve levels of protein greater than the 50 percent currently produced.”

Not only can the process deliver high protein ingredients, the process also allows Sanos to produce targeted nutritional profiles.

“Different amino acid profiles that are more specifically tailored to each specific animal species and type of diet are also possible,” Santana adds.

AURI Microbiologist Jimmy Gosse helped develop the concept while working on a project for the Minnesota Soybean Research and Promotion Council. After conducting preliminary research, Gosse spearheaded the efforts to enable Sanos to obtain the technology from AURI and incorporate in 2017. Sanos Nutrition committed to develop a business with the intent to commercialize the process. In addition to his AURI duties, Gosse is also Chief Technology Officer for Sanos Nutrition.

“Our products are positioned to be cost-effective, when compared to other single-cell proteins specifically grown for feed applications,” Gosse says. “We have validated the technology at the lab scale and believe we can be competitive selling our product into the local swine market by targeting starter feeds.”

Gosse says starter diets have the most stringent dietary requirements because they are critical for establishing the animal’s overall performance, and for achieving producer profitability.

“With the potential to have a very low cost of production combined with the ability to tailor the amino acid profile to match the needs of the swine nutritionists, Sanos is uniquely positioned among its competitors in its amino acid balancer product,” Gosse says.

Sustainable Process

In addition to adding value to lower-value ag byproducts, Santana says the Sanos Nutrition process is very sustainable. He says the amount of energy, water, land, natural resources and fertilizers that can be saved by using aerobic fermentation to produce high protein ingredients is substantial.

“Given the rapid and efficient growth of micro-organisms, we can produce 100 pounds of protein or more per day using only one pound of yeast,” Santana explains. “We are also diverting a low-value feedstock that has no food value into a higher product that re-enters the supply chain as a highly nutritious ingredient.”

“There is also the impact on global transportation,” Gosse adds. “We could produce our proteins anywhere in the world where animals are grown and oily crops are produced.”

Gosse says that process flexibility could help displace the need for fishmeal, which is processed and shipped all over the world from already stressed ocean fisheries.

“The most unique aspect of their proprietary work is the ability to add significant value to a low-value byproduct that is produced in Minnesota and transform it into a feed product that is in demand and that is not produced in sufficient quantities in Minnesota today,” says AURI Executive Director Shannon Schlecht. “It is the science and understanding of how to fill market gaps that have commercial potential.”

Cleantech Open

Sanos Nutrition and their innovative process were recognized in late 2018 as the Cleantech Open Midwest award winners. The Cleantech Open is the oldest and largest clean technology startup accelerator program in the world, with the mission to find, fund, and foster entrepreneurs with ideas to solve the world’s greatest environmental and energy challenges.

Through the annual business competition and accelerator program, Cleantech Open connects startups with the people and resources that will accelerate their success and provides a national platform for public visibility. Cleantech Open Midwest Co-Director Garrick Villaume says Sanos Nutrition exhibited all of the desired attributes to make them worthy recipients.

“It was the combination of their technology and product solution, the substantial sustainability impact of their approach, and the experience and qualities of the principals,” Villaume says.

Villaume says Sanos Nutrition demonstrated innovation and offered a unique model that shows true business potential.

Santana says he was encouraged to apply to the Cleantech Open after networking with other entrepreneurs who were interested in the sustainable ag and food space. He listened to their encouragement and last spring submitted an application.

“The Cleantech Open award provided us with validation that our efforts are getting recognized and we are on to something,” Santana says. “At the same, time, it keeps our motivation high to deliver on our goals and try to move to commercial scale faster.”

“The ability of Sanos to articulate their innovation and illustrate a commercial opportunity at this early stage of their effort indicates both interest in their sustainable approach to helping feed the world as well as the commercial viability of their efforts,” says Schlecht.

“We believe it was the right time for us to follow a structured program to refine our business model and seek customer feedback at a time when many activities should be made and resources are limited,” Santana adds.

Budding Success Story

Jennifer Wagner-Lahr, AURI’s Senior Director
of Innovation & Commercialization says the original conversations that led to the development of Sanos Nutrition’s proprietary process began as part of AURI’s innovation network meetings. These events are designed to identify emerging opportunities that AURI and its clients could pursue.

“It’s great to see a concept that came through the AURI ideation process take shape,” Wagner-Lahr says

Santana says AURI is a valued resource that has helped Sanos Nutrition grow and develop.

“AURI has been a great business partner for us. We have been able to leverage AURI’s expertise and network in many areas, most importantly in the ag community and with high level research institutions,” Santana says.

Wagner-Lahr sees substantial opportunity for Sanos Nutrition’s ingredients to be included in feed rations for nearly any animal that needs protein in their diet, including pork, poultry, aquaculture and dairy.

“I think they’re on to something,” Wagner-Lahrs says.

Sanos has already been recognized for its innovation and potential, but Santana says the company has bigger ambitions that they are actively pursuing.

“From the onset, we wanted Sanos to become a part of the fabric of the Minnesotan ag space,” Santana contends. “While we have great aspirations for how our product can benefit the global animal nutrition, we also want to do it with our local community.

“Over the next 30 years, agricultural output must more than double to keep up with population growth. We believe that ingenuity and creativity will allow us to achieve more with fewer resources and make a better world for future generations.”

Innovative Process Generates High Protein Feed

Sanos Nutrition CEO and founder Manuel Santana

“We can produce as much as 100 pounds of protein or more per day using only one pound of yeast.

Sanos Nutrition CEO Manuel Santana (L) and AURI Microbiologist Dr. Jimmy Gosse (R) have developed a high density yeast product for animal feed.

Sanos is uniquely positioned among its competitors in its amino acid balancer product.

Jennifer Wagner-Lahr, AURI’s Senior Director of Innovation & Commercialization

“The original conversations that led to the development of Sanos Nutrition’s proprietary process began as part of AURI’s innovation network meetings.

Sanos Nutrition and their innovative process were recognized in late 2018 as the winners of the Cleantech Open Midwest, which is part of the oldest and largest clean technology startup accelerator program in the world.

Sanos Nutrition’s products are positioned to be cost-effective, when compared to all other single-cell proteins specifically grown for feed applications.

To learn more about Sanos nutrition, visit their website at www.sanosnutrition.com.

Sanos Nutrition CEO and founder Manuel Santana

“Over the next 30 years, agricultural output must more than double to keep up with population growth.