Alltech’s solid state fermentation facility in Serdan, Mexico isn’t reinventing the wheel. But it does have the wheel rolling faster than it has rolled before.
The facility produces two main products: Allzyme SSF and De-Odorase. It’s a state-of-the-art production facility with about 200 employees that produces several thousand tons of Allzyme SSF every year. It’s one of the largest facilities of its kind in the world.
“Where Alltech rules the market is through the technology we’ve put into this,” said Kyle McKinney, an applications research scientist for Alltech.
Unlike the more common submerged liquid fermentation (SmF), solid state fermentation (SSF) occurs when a filamentous fungi is grown on a solid culture. The process begins by growing the fungal organism in liquid fermentation tanks. It is then mixed with a sterile solid substrate to achieve a desired moisture level.
The mixture is placed in trays that are moved to fermentation chambers. These chambers are large, highly-controlled environments that are monitored for temperature, humidity, air flow and other factors. The facility in Serdan has eight fermentation chambers, and each is about the size of a basketball court. Once the product is ready, it’s then dried and blended before being packaged and shipped for our customers.
“Alltech Serdan has the ability to produce product with a broad spectrum of enzyme activities, liquid fermentation does not have this capability,” said Paul Kilgallen, Plant Manager for Alltech. “By using solid state fermentation we can produce the enzymes much more economically, which is very advantageous to us and the customer.”
SSF isn’t new technology - the same process has been used in the making of soy sauce and saké for centuries, among other things. Alltech’s application of the process for the animal industry is what sets it apart. McKinney said the facility in Serdan is the most advanced of its kind in the world. The process is monitored closely to prevent contamination and maximize growth, resulting in a high-quality product trusted by farmers.
“The fact that we could grow a fungal organism and produce enzymes in a controlled environment wasn’t anything new,” McKinney said. “It was about finding how to do it in a commercial environment.”
SSF is more efficient than SmF at breaking down the nutrients in feed, which is what makes Allzyme SSF so valuable. It helps improve the digestibility of feed, improving feed efficiency and reducing waste. Farmers can save money on feed costs, traditionally one of their biggest expenses, by using less feed or by using alternative feeds. Reduced waste also means less impact on the environment.
The Serdan facility itself also puts an emphasis on sustainability and being environmentally friendly. It’s located in a dry region of Mexico about 120 miles southeast of Mexico City. The water that is used at the facility is reused and recycled.
Kilgallen said there are also 60,000-70,000 yucca seedlings at the facility, used for replanting in the surrounding regions. About 15 years later, the plants are harvested and transported to Serdan where the yucca logs are used to produce De-Odorase products. Phase one of a new De-Odorase production facility was completed on site earlier this year, and it should be operational midway through 2014. The new facility could more than double production capacity.
Alltech has had a presence in Serdan for 20 years, and the SSF facility has seen significant growth in that time. Kilgallen said they prefer to use local supplies and labor whenever possible, maintaining a strong place within a small community. Production now rolls around the clock as the facility continues to grow.
“I believe in the not too distant future Alltech Serdan will have to increase its solid substrate fermentation capacity by building more culture chambers,” Kilgallen said. “The plant is getting close to its capacity and the demand for Allzyme SSF is ever increasing.”