GEA plans new US technology center for alternative proteins

GEA is investing €18 million (US$20 million) in a new US technology center for sustainable alternatives to meat, dairy, seafood and egg at its campus in Janesville, Wisconsin.

The 10,000 sq m facility will be housed in an extension to the existing GEA building
The 10,000 sq m facility will be housed in an extension to the existing GEA building - Source: GEA.

The new food technology hub will be used to evaluate processes for the production of new microbial, cell-based and plant-based foods on a transferable pilot scale. It will also test production using cell cultures and microbial fermentation in conjunction with upstream and downstream process steps.

The center will be home to an end-to-end process line that includes GEA’s multifunctional fermenters or bioreactors together with high-shear mixing, sterilization, homogenization, cell separation and filtration equipment. The system can freely alter the sequence of the various steps and add or repeat process stages to test cultivation and fermentation strategies along with product synthesis.

“A number of new food pioneers in the USA are already writing innovation history. When it comes to industrial production, the market is still on the starting blocks,” says Dr Reimar Gutte, Senior Vice President Liquid and Fermentation Technologies, leading New Food at GEA. “GEA’s new food center bridges a gap in the innovation landscape, driving forward the development of complementary proteins through technology.”

“Most new food companies are located in North America and the bulk of the investments in alternative proteins flow into this region. Consequently, there is an urgent need for scaling facilities like ours,” says Arpad Csay, who leads GEA’s North American new food business. “The GEA platform in Janesville will enable manufacturers to conduct their scaling and testing work without the need to invest in their own capital-intensive infrastructure. In this way, we will help overcome scaling challenges and accelerate the industry’s growth.”

The 10,000 square-meter facility will be housed in an extension to the existing GEA building. Groundbreaking is scheduled for spring of 2024 with opening planned for 2025.

Beyond testing and validating processes, GEA also intends to promote the training of biotechnology specialists in the new building. Attached to the GEA site for homogenizers, separators, pumps and valves, which opened in December 2023, the new food experts will share their knowledge with other disciplines.

This project is GEA’s second investment in a new food hub, which fast-tracks innovations from the lab to commercial-scale manufacturing. Last year, GEA inaugurated a technology center focusing on cell cultivation and fermentation in Hildesheim, Germany.