Fermentation is most definitely a remarkable source of alternative solutions to petrol-based chemistry! Initiated as soon as 2012 by PhD in Biology and Chemistry Jérémy Pessiot, Afyren’s strategy is aimed to replace the petroleum-based molecules essential to a wide variety of industries for their antibacterial, olfactory, and preservation properties with their biosourced equivalent. On September 29, the company reached the industrial phase of its project with the inauguration of its first biorefinery, Afyren Neoxy, which is meant to produce biosourced carboxylic acids.
“This way, we will combine profitability and environmental protection with a zero-waste plant and very low CO2 emissions, since they are divided by five, compared to conventional solutions. And all this is done following circular economy principles”, explains Joachim Merziger, Afyren’s Marketing Director.
100% biosourced organic acids
The Afyren technology is based on the biomimetic fermentation of GMO-free co-products of the sugar industry. It helps produce a family of seven fully biosourced, very high-quality, extremely pure organic acids with between two and six carbon atoms. The Afyren acids meet the definition of natural aromas under Regulation (EC) no. 1334/2008 and are Ecocert- and Cosmos-certified. It is a short-channel European offering with a very satisfactory traceability. The acids produced can be used as such, as ingredients, or transformed into derivatives for the cosmetics and perfumes industries, for example.
The Afyren propionic acid, which is only available as a petroleum-based product for now, will help create esters used as fragrances or aromas. As for acetic acid, it is used to produce nail varnish ingredients.
“This family of acids is a toolkit for new, fully biosourced derivatives. The acid market in general is estimated at 13 billion euros, so it offers a huge potential for substituting substances derived from fossil resources with biosourced ingredients”, says Merziger. “Many cosmetics and perfumes players have set up very ambitious programmes to make their products more sustainable, and we offer them solutions and tools”, adds the Director.
Two new projects under study
Since it became a publicly listed company in 2021, Afyren has been able to raise 70 million euros, finance R&D work, and start building this first industrial unit. They are now considering the possibility to implement this production in other geographical areas (North America and South-East Asia) for openings in 2026/2027.
“The idea is to meet the demands of our global customers in the three major industrial hubs, i.e. Europe, Asia, and North America. Biomass supplies will be local: it is a key element of Afyren’s strategy. We aim to keep the benefits of a short channel and a reduced carbon footprint, and to secure our customers’ supplies,” explains Merziger.
An industrial project on the European scale
Afyren received support via the AFTER-BIOCHEM project, a skill pool of 12 European companies which validated the industrial project and the relevance of the products use.
“It is a project in the project”, emphasizes Merziger. “Launched by Afyren, AFTER-BIOCHEM gathers participants from five European countries to strengthen the whole upstream-downstream chain around this first biorefinery. These players come from different sectors, like Südzucker, the main sugar leader and our co-product supplier, cosmetics expert Fiabila, Firmenich, for aromas and perfumes, representatives of human and animal nutrition, industrial chemistry…,” he concludes.