In 2017, Lincoln Agritech’s Biotechnology Team was awarded a two-year government grant from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) Smart Ideas Fund to investigate the use of magnetotactic bacteria for removing contaminants from manufacturing processes.
Using New Zealand’s natural population of magnetotactic bacteria, micoorganisms that align with the earth’s magnetic field, these bacteria can be manipulated by external magnetic fields to undertake bioremediation in industrial processes.
Lincoln Agritech’s Biotechnology Team are specifically investigating the removal of hydrogen sulphide from wine.
Harnessing the metabolic capability of New Zealand isolated magnetotactic bacteria, the microorganisms will be guided to oxidise hydrogen sulphide in anaerobic wine fermentation vessels. The microbes will be able to accumulate the sulphur internally and then be directed - via a magnetic field - to an aerobic vessel where the sulphur can be further oxidised and released as sulphate.
The science challenge is to remove hydrogen sulphide from wine fermentation without disrupting the wine making process, flavour and character of the wine. Unlike other bioremediation techniques, this concept will allow “aerobic remediation”, but will not expose the wine to oxygen or disrupt the fermentation process.
The concept of utilising magnetotatic bacteria to shuttle products and substrates from one fermentation vessel to another (separate from the bulk of reactants) is a world first.
Wine industry aside, this technique can be used for other applications and industries such as removing hydrogen sulphide from pulp and paper mills, tanneries, and mining sectors; organic waste from primary production; and for aquaculture and municipal waste management.
This science collaboration project is led by Lincoln Agritech and includes research partners CNRS (France) and Plant and Food Research; as well as industry partners Kono Wines and Indevin.
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