Industrial Enzymes for Sustainable Bio-Economy: Large Scale Production and Application in Industry, Environment, and Agriculture in Eastern Africa
Lyantagaye, Sylvester Leonard
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To date Africa’s participation in the global economy is largely confined to supplying raw materials. Adding value to these raw materials is expected to lead to economic growth and improvement in the standard of living. In Eastern Africa, because of availability of raw materials, developing capacity in the leather, textile, pulp and paper, detergent, and starch industries is believed to offer competitive advantages. However, some of these industries are highly associated with environmental pollution. Recently developments in industrial biotechnology, defined as the use of enzymes or microorganisms for industrial processes, has offered a viable option to decrease or avoid environmental pollution from such industrial activities. Widespread use of enzymes in industrial processes, in addition to lowering the level of pollution, could lead to improvement in product quality and/or process efficiency. Thus, availability of enzymes locally with affordable price and with expert support on their use is expected to have significant contribution in the region by lowering environmental pollution and by replacing several imported chemicals as processing aids. Furthermore, because of the availability of extremely unique habitats, such as alkaline environments, hot springs, etc with huge microbial diversity, the region could be, in the long term, highly competitive in the global industrial enzyme market. For example, one enzyme isolated by Genecor, an American biotech company, from a Kenyan soda lake was estimated to earn the company over US $600 million annually. In the last few decades, through research conducted in the different institutions several novel microbial strains producing potentially attractive enzymes for industrial application were isolated and characterized. Cultivation conditions for these organisms have also been optimized. Evaluation of some of these enzymes under application conditions gave extremely encouraging results. Given the importance of these enzymes in serving as processing aids in different industries in the region and their role in significantly reducing environmental pollution, scaling up of production processes and use of the enzymes at industrial scale is felt absolutely essential. The main objectives of this study are therefore, to scale up production, optimize enzyme stabilization and formulation, and test the enzymes under application conditions. Enzyme producing microbial strains earlier isolated will be grown in large scale using solid state fermentation or submerged fermentation. The enzymes will be concentrated, stabilized, and formulated for industrial application. These enzymes will then be used for leather processing, textile processing, protein hydrolysis, detergent formulation, as animal feed additive, pulp bio bleaching, etc. Testing will be carried out at factory settings in different factories in the region. For products where enzymes are already in use (such as bating agents in the leather industry) the new enzymes will be compared with commercial enzymes and the best enzyme selected and promoted for use in the region. For processes where enzymes are not used (usually for reason of cost) factories will be encouraged to adopt the technology by giving them free samples. The technology developed will then be popularized through different channels. A workshop will be organized for enzyme users in the region and different industries will be encouraged to use these products. Similarly workshops will be organized for business people in the region to attract their attention and encourage them to invest in this technology. A company specialized in the production of industrial enzymes in partnership with private sector (and if necessary foreign partners) will be established. Successful implementation of this project is expected to help the region to develop the industrial sector with little or no environmental pollution. As Africa’s microbial biodiversity is unique, in the medium to long term, the region could gain access to a significant slice of the global enzyme market.