Ukrainian business is actively considering the prospects of construction of grain processing plants. The main technical component of such projects is industrial biotechnology, where bacteria, yeast and enzymes are used as working tools in production processes. Depending on the final product, different properties of these tools are used, which allows to distinguish three groups of industrial biotechnological processes.
The first group includes enzyme hydrolysis, a process in which enzymes serve as biocatalysts for accelerating chemical reactions. It is most often found in the operations of starch hydrolysis (cleavage) to extract from the last sugar-containing components, primarily glucose.
According to available information, several native starch production projects using wet grinding technology are currently being planned in Ukraine. Undoubtedly, this is a good trend, as it is the first, initial stage of deep processing of grain.
Starch production projects have a number of significant drawbacks:
- limited market capacity of the product;
- weak opportunities to improve efficiency;
- relatively low value added.
The scale of the project can be an order of magnitude higher if we go one step further and use the second group of biotechnological processes – fermentation. Its essence is to convert the pre-treated bio-raw materials into the desired products with the help of specialized microorganisms.
In this case, glucose in the form of a syrup is used as an intermediate product for the production of more profitable products, such as organic acids, including citric, lactic, acetic and so on.
With the help of adapted microorganisms, glucose syrup is converted into a product with specified parameters, which is then subjected to isolation, purification and other processing steps depending on the purpose. As a result, citric acid monohydrate or anhydrate, citric syrup and sodium citrate can be obtained.
The minimum capacity of the plant for the profitable production of citric acid should be from 20 thousand tons per year.
Such a plant will require a land plot of about 5 hectares. Here, another level of investment is also required. The cost of the plant alone (except for the building, auxiliary structures and infrastructure) will be around EUR 40 million. However, the payback period is relatively short – within five years.
It should also be borne in mind that fermentation allows the use of glucose syrup as a raw material for the production of a number of other valuable products – caramel and maltose molasses, maltodextrin, glucose-fructose syrups, crystalline fructose, sorbitol and amino acids.
The third group of biotechnological processes – cultivation – stands apart. This is a process in which the end product is the biomass of the microorganisms themselves, and the sugar-containing raw material (the same glucose) serves as a breeding ground for growth. The most characteristic example is yeast production.
For the sake of justice, it should be noted that the best raw material for quality assurance, for example, baking yeast is beet molasses, because hydrolysates obtained from grain crops need to be enriched with trace elements and vitamins.
For Ukrainian sugar breeders the use of molasses for yeast production is one of the most effective ways to increase profitability of sugar production.
It is noteworthy that such production has excellent opportunities for further development, as yeast can be obtained from the yeast:
- yeast extract, used as a food additive and which is growing in popularity in the world at a good pace;
- Glucan and mannan, which supplement the animal feed.
With regard to such important components of the processing processes as raw materials, microorganisms and auxiliary materials, several important points should be noted.
Raw material base
Corn and wheat are usually considered as the raw material base in Ukraine, sometimes sorghum requests come in. For deep processing it is allowed to use raw materials of lower quality than in flour and cereal production.
For example, for the production of molasses wheat of the third and fourth classes is used, which is very important under adverse weather and other conditions. The planned raw materials are analyzed and tested for suitability in the projected process.
These tests are the basis for the design of industrial plants, i.e. the peculiarities of local raw materials are taken into account to the maximum extent possible. Biotechnological processes offer a wide range of possibilities for 100% processing of raw materials, without waste. This makes it possible to ensure the most efficient production.
A mandatory factor is the availability of a biotechnology developer and supplier’s own collection of strains selected and improved for use (reference: strain – pure microbial culture or cell culture, isolated at a certain time and place).
The properties of strains determine the basic parameters of production. The future enterprise should not depend on the supply of strains, so the project should provide for a laboratory to reproduce, collect and pilot test spores.
Not a single raw material
In addition to raw materials and microorganisms, biotechnology uses auxiliary materials, nutrients, trace elements and inhibitors to optimize processes.
For example, in the production of caramel and maltose molasses, glucose-fructose syrups, the following auxiliary materials are used: caustic soda, sulfuric acid, hydrochloric acid, granulated activated carbon, sodium and magnesium compounds, citric acid. An appendix to the publication contains an approximate calculation of the consumption of certain auxiliary materials and energy resources in the production of molasses and glucose-fructose syrup.
Each process operation is performed on special equipment
One of the key is the bioreactor or fermenter, which is the main workflow. We will talk more about the equipment used in industrial biotechnology in the near future.
It is necessary to pay attention to the fact that the figures given in the article are only for the general presentation, because each project has its own peculiarities, which should be taken into account.
Therefore any project should begin with conceptual designing in which course the basic positions of the planned enterprise are developed. They will serve as an excellent basis for making investment decisions, can be used to obtain administrative approvals and work with financial institutions.