CA: NouriTech aims to curb world hunger, create Memphis jobs
Investors broke ground in Memphis on Wednesday on a $660 million animal food ingredient plant they say will create up to 160 jobs and possibly help feed the world.
The NouriTech plant will repurpose a 37-acre swath of Presidents Island, formerly part of Cargill’s corn sweetener operation that closed in 2015.
On the site will rise what’s billed as the world’s largest gas fermentation plant, built to convert methane into a feed ingredient for fish, livestock and pets through a process similar to brewing.
Announced last fall by agribusiness giant Cargill and California company Calysta, the plant is scheduled to be under construction by late fall and producing FeedKind, a proprietary input for aquaculture and other uses, in 2019.
Other key investors include Japanese industrial giant Mitsui and Singapore-based investment firm Temasek.
“Hopefully we’ll address one of the biggest issues the world faces today, and that is food security,” said Calysta President and Chief Executive Officer Alan Shaw.
“FeedKind is a new natural, sustainable feed ingredient for fish, livestock, even your pet, and it’s going to start here,” Shaw said. An estimated 70 percent of a projected 10 billion world population in 2100 will need more protein, he said.
“I think we should all be very proud here in Memphis, we’re actually starting to make a difference to that, probably the world’s leading issue,” Shaw said.
The plant will initially employ 75 when it opens in 2019, and the number will grow in 2020 when it reaches full production of 200,000 tons a year. Companies that use FeedKind in finished products are expected to locate nearby.
The product was invented by Statoil, the Norwegian oil and gas company, and has been used to feed salmon in Norway.
Calysta acquired and improved the product in a “supercharged process using 21st-century engineering and biology,” Shaw said. Since September Calysta has produced a couple metric tons at a research and development and market introduction unit in the United Kingdom.
A U.S. production facility was essential because of wide availability and low cost of methane here, Shaw said.
Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland said the city supports making revenue bonds available to help build a natural gas pipeline to supply NouriTech.
Tennessee Commissioner of Economic and Community Development Bob Rolfe said the number of jobs is relatively small for a $660 million private capital investment because of the highly automated nature of advanced manufacturing.