Enzymes and Microbes
What are enzymes?
Enzymes are proteins that act as catalysts. When one substance needs to be transformed into another, nature uses enzymes to speed up the process. In our stomachs for example, enzymes break down food into tiny particles to be converted into energy.
Our customers use enzymes as catalysts to manufacture a variety of everyday products - like sugar, beer, bread and ethanol. They are also used directly in products such as laundry detergent, where they help remove stains and enable low-temperature washing.
What are microbes?
Microbes are living, single-celled organisms such as fungi and bacteria. Microbes are the most effective producers of enzymes. These naturally-occuring enzyme factories are at the heart of our business, and can be used in a variety of agricultural and industrial processes.
Microbes give farmers a new biological toolkit to increase yields and protect crops. They can also improve livestock health, growth and feed utilization. Our customers in wastewater treatment and biogas use them to improve efficiency and as processing aids.
5,000 years of everyday transformations
Fashionista? Foodie? Enzymes have you covered
As the name suggests, the traditional way of producing stonewashed jeans is to wash them with stones. This water-intensive treatment is harsh on the jeans and the environment. It also weakens their fabric, giving them a flossy appearance.
Using enzymes instead of stones eliminates the need for multiple rinses and saves water. The results? Undamaged fabric, long-lasting quality, and that same stonewashed look.
When a loaf of bread's starch loses moisture, the bread becomes hard. Keep that softness by adding enzymes to the flour to alter the structure of the starch.
For busy bakers, enzymes can also make dough less sticky.
Other specialized baking enzymes help retain naturally-occurring gases in gluten. That's how bakers are able to make light, fluffy bread.
Natural, untreated leather is as stiff as metal. In the bating process, enzymes dissolve and wash protein components that stiffen leather. Because the bacteria in excrement produce enzymes, dog excrement was once used for this process.
Using enzymes to remove hair and fat from animal hides reduces sulphide use by 40% and reduces water use. Replacing chemicals with enzymes cuts down on rinsing and cleaning in the leather production process.
Biopolishing enzyme treatments remove the small hairs and fuzz that protrude from the surface of yarn, leaving a smooth finish on cotton fabric. Biopolished clothes still look new after multiple washes.
The starch used to stop yarn from breaking during weaving can also stop it from absorbing bleach and dye. Using enzymes to break down this glaze doesn't harm the textile and makes it ready for bleaching or dyeing.
Apples turn brown and soften after you cut them as enzymes break down their fibers. It's not too appetizing if you're eating apples, but it's an advantage when juicing them. These enzymes make the fruit easier to press, giving higher yields and creating completely clear juice.
And it's not just apples – the enzymes also work on grapes to get all their juice out without compromising the quality of that fine wine.
The perfect fit
The quest for the perfect enzyme
The heart of our business
Bacteria and fungi are the naturally-occurring enzyme factories at the heart of our business. Most of our enzymes are produced by Aspergillus oryzae, the same fungus that has been used for thousands of years to make soy sauce. It also has a huge capacity for producing enzymes. That’s why we love it.
Why bacteria and fungi?
Enzymes are in all living things. We could collect enzymes from giraffes or Christmas trees, but we choose to collect bacteria and fungi that make enzymes. That's because bacteria and fungi are easy to grow, handle and test. You can't say the same for a giraffe.
The perfect microbe
Some bacteria or fungi are able to produce the right enzyme. Others grow fast and produce lots of enzymes. For us, the perfect microbe must do both. We have been collecting microbes from nature since the 1960s, and now have one of the world's largest proprietary strain collections. So the first place we look for the perfect microbe is in our own collection.
Hunting high and low
Our search for samples takes us across the globe to meet our customers' needs. If the enzyme needs to function under very hot conditions, our researchers in hot spring areas are the the ones we call. The search for enzymes for cold-water washing brings us North to arctic regions. Read full story