Spotlight - IFF: Innovations for the Individual Producer

IFF is a yeast and enzyme provider that offers ethanol producers customized recommendations based on their plant’s needs. The company is embracing new product development opportunities while delivering yeasts today that maximize production.
By Katie Schroeder | September 16, 2022

Yeast is the lynchpin of the ethanol production process. IFF is an industry leader in biosciences, helping ethanol producers meet the challenges of creating a secure, renewable energy pipeline with innovative enzyme, yeast and antimicrobial solutions for starch-based fuel ethanol. Larry Anthony, research and development technical manager with IFF, says the company has been providing yeast to the ethanol industry for the past 10 years. He explains that IFF’s XCELIS Ethanol Solutions platform features yeasts and enzymes that they will recommend and tailor to each plant’s situation. “What we do is listen to our customers,” Anthony says. “We find out what each plant needs in terms of its process, and from there we can recommend the right yeast.”

Their products include both single yeast strains and blended strains that will match each facility’s needs. Anthony states that IFF’s process of developing new yeast solutions stems from its diverse collection of yeast strains, each with their own desirable qualities such as fermentation speed and robustness, which are allowed to combine via mating followed by selection of high-performing strains.

The selected strains will be put through an intense screening regimen that exposes the yeast to stress conditions it will encounter in ethanol plants, such as high lactic acid stress, high acetic acid stress and high temperatures, identifying the winners. These high-performing strains are then used as a platform to genetically engineer products for high yield and other performance traits.

“We take all these strains—and we develop hundreds, thousands of strains—and put them through a reiterative screening process,” Anthony says. “You identify the top 10 percent of the best, put those back in the screen, and you keep winnowing it down until you’re able to identify the handful that are the most promising. But again, it’s all from listening to the customer, because the screen conditions are set up around what the customers are facing in the field.”

The future role of yeasts in the ethanol industry will be closely tied to growth areas as plants start prioritizing high value coproducts and reducing their carbon footprint. However, Anthony thinks there is still potential to maximize the traditional goals, such as yield, fermentation rate and robustness. “But now that plants are starting to embrace new technologies like high value feeds, new product development opportunities are continuously emerging,” Anthony says.

Along with its strong core competency in yeast engineering, IFF’s XCELIS AI computer modeling system enables the company to better predict and steer outcomes at scale. “There aren’t very many biotechnology projects where you’re working with fermentations at the scale of the ethanol industry,” he adds. “So, from our perspective, it’s very exciting to work on projects that are large-scale commercial projects where you can actually see and make an impact at a customer’s plant.”