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Again: Modifying Bacteria That Devours Exhaust and Excretes Vinegar as a Byproduct to Help the Climate

Image Credits: iStock.com/FrancescoScatena
By: Headliners News / December 20, 2023

In a revolutionary venture for climate-conscious innovation, Again has emerged with modified bacteria that devour industrial exhaust and excrete a surprising byproduct: vinegar. Hailing from the research labs of the Technical University of Denmark, Again’s modified bacteria currently boasts an impressive feat, consuming approximately one ton of CO2 daily.

Quietly making strides in the environmental tech scene, the 2.5-year-old startup secured a substantial $10 million seed round in February from prominent backers, including ACME Capital, GV (formerly Google Ventures), and Atlantic Labs. The company is further buoyed by a substantial grant of nearly $47 million (€43 million) from Horizon Europe for the PyroCO2 project utilizing Again’s groundbreaking technology.

Again’s innovative approach involves channeling industrial exhaust into a towering 65-foot bioreactor. Within this bioengineered environment, hungry bacteria, energized by hydrogen and climate pollution, engage in a transformative process. The end result? Vinegar. This seemingly humble byproduct is refined into acetic acid and acetate, essential base chemicals for a range of applications such as detergents, paints, pharmaceuticals, and textiles.

Unique to Again is its point-of-source carbon capture service, offered at no cost. The company’s revenue model hinges on selling the valuable output derived from the bacterial feast.

In Copenhagen, where Again operates a fermentation vessel in a test mode, the startup generously distributes samples of the chemicals produced. However, with a significant undisclosed contract in play, co-founder and CEO Torbjørn Ølshøj Jensen emphasized that the company’s primary focus is on scaling up and building more plants.

The proprietary technology has reached a point where it is commercially viable, according to Jensen. Despite maintaining a level of secrecy around the expansion-driving deal, Again is actively broadening its presence in both Europe and North America.

Max Kufner, co-founder and COO, shed light on the intriguing aspect of the bacteria’s adaptability, stating in an interview with TechCrunch, “It’s really dirty things we work with, but the cool thing about these bacteria is they just feed off it… and continue to develop themselves to cope with potential inhibitors present in the off-gas.”

Beyond genetic modifications, Again incorporates a significant element of forced evolution in its bacterial engineering endeavors. The overarching goal for Again is to contribute to the decarbonization of industrial facilities. However, this highly innovative startup currently relies on hydrogen derived from fossil fuels to power its specialized bacteria. Jensen clarified that the chemical production remains “carbon neutral” due to the captured CO2 from the hydrogen manufacturing process.

Looking ahead, Again envisions a transition to green hydrogen, produced using electrolyzers and renewable energy sources, as part of its commitment to a sustainable future for everyone.

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