Norwegian Research Council - Bioeconomy in the North - BIONÆRProject number: 305215
Period covered - start date: 2020
Period covered - end date: 2022
Project's coordinator: NMBU Volha Shapaval
Due to its compositional variety, lignocellulosic biomass is a promising renewable feedstock for the production of different chemicals. The production of fungal lipids from lignocellulose sugars has attracted a lot of attention during the last five years. Fungal lipids are produced by oleaginous fungi which, under nutrient-limited conditions, are able to accumulate up to 80% of lipids per dry biomass. Fungal lipids consist mainly of triacylglycerols (TAGs). Fatty acid profiles of fungal TAGs are very similar to essential fatty acids in plant oils or they can be similar to highly valuable fish oil. Fungal lipids are a promising feedstock of high-value lipids for food, feed and chemical industry as well as low-value lipids for biodiesel industry.
The process of microbial lipid production is still not competitive with the agricultural production of vegetable oils which has a significantlylower market price.
Our hypothesis is that the production of microbial lipids from lignocellulose sugars can become economically feasible if a process allowing the co-production of chitin and chitosan. Utilizing oleaginous Zygomycetes fungi for the lipid production from lignocellulose sugars, gives an opportunity for the co-production of important biopolymers such as chitin and chitosan in addition to lipids.
Chitosans are among the most versatile and promising functional biopolymers, with superior material properties and interesting biological activities. Since the demand of chitosan is exceeding the current global chitosan production from traditional sources, there is a high demand, which is providing excellent business opportunities for chitosans from novel sources. Chitosan production by Zygomycetes fungi is a unique possibility to produce chitosan naturally, which adds additional value to the product as it will have a fully biological origin. In addition, it is of non-animal origin, which will support market penetration in sensitive fields such as bio-cosmetics.