With large scale productions giving way to increased output of consumables and medications, industrial fermentation has become a necessary and mainstream sector in the U.S. As such, here are a few common applications of industrial fermentation.
What is Industrial Fermentation?
In the United States, industrial fermentation is necessary to ensure that large quantities of food and resources are produced to meet demand. There is little different between the fermentation process on a general scale and that of the industrial scale except for the quantities that are produced.
Originally part of the new wave of bio-technology that grew in the mid-20th century, industrial fermentation has become a sector of industry in and of itself. Companies such as Biotech Resources, which has been running fermentation research since 1962 often work with producers in order to increase output yield. Depending on the fermentation process, these can be business relationships that last weeks, years, or even decades––meaning that the biotech industries that focus on fermentation are in high demand.
How Fermentation Works?
Whilst the industry is continuing to grow, it helps to know how fermentation works. Fermentation, as is the case with all bio-technological industries, is the use of natural, biological resources to stimulate metabolic engineering in microorganisms in order to incite change. This can be to off-set ripeness in fruit, better the flavor of certain food stuffs and vegetables, or even release the health benefits within. By altering the biology of certain food stuffs, you can increase the number of vitamins and minerals it has, which is why fermentation is favored by healthcare companies and food production in the U.S.
Like most living creatures, microorganisms are dependent on sugars (glucose) for fuel, and oxygen to turn that fuel into energy. Fermentation occurs when beneficial microorganisms (such as yeast, bacteria, or molds) are introduced to an oxygen-less environment. As the energy-releasing components are different, so too is the reaction. The beneficial microorganisms break down the sugars into alcohol and acids that can both preserve food and become the primary ingredient of certain beverages.
Real Use Cases
The most obvious and mainstream example of fermentation is that which gives alcoholic beverages its name. Alcohol itself is a product of fermentation when yeast cells break down sugars and glucose. It is an age-old chemical reaction that has seen much use since fermented grapes were used to create the first glass of wine at around 6000 BC.
Now that the basics of fermentation are understood, it is easier to see how industrial fermentation is a large scale variation of that. In order to ensure that mass production of such foodstuffs and beverages continues, industrial fermentation calls for the reaction between micro-organic substrates and a removal of oxygen. For brands that operate large-scale production lines of food and drink, mass fermentation reactors are called upon to ensure that supply meets demand.
Beyond the consumables, industrial fermentation processes are likely to be found in medicines and pharmaceutical industries. Drug administration companies, such as Roivant Sciences will investigate the efficacy of new drugs and see if they are ready for mass production. Roivant Sciences are a healthcare company which will start by using biotechnology to design and create small scale drugs and medications to then take further when the time is right. Although clinical studies can often take a long time, so too does initial fermentation––a reminder that industrial fermentation companies will often have long-lasting associations with other business.
A more recent example of when the healthcare industry has needed to use industrial-sized fermentation is to recreate the vaccine against Covid-19. With only a small vaccine sample to start off with, industrial fermentation has allowed a fast reproduction of vaccines, which can then be distributed across the world.