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6, Jun 2023

Industrial potential for Kombucha waste product

Next time you sip a kombucha, think not just of the health benefits of this fermented drink but the possibilities for one of its waste products.

Joachim Larsen, of the University of Newcastle node, has presented the myriad possibilities for the cellulose biofilm that is produced on top of the fermented tea during the production of kombucha.

During kombucha production, a cellulose biofilm is produced on top of the fermented tea. ‘This cellulose biofilm is a waste-product,“ says Joachim, who was presenting to the Australian Society of Microbiology NSW/ATC Biofilm Special Interest Group.

‘However, cellulose is considered a high-value product due to its properties and potential function in medical care, textile production and cooking (just to mention a few).

‘Understanding the production of this ‘waste’ product in kombucha production will be of interest for the purpose of scaling it up. ‘

Joachim covered what microorganisms live within the kombucha and within the cellulose biofilm in four ‘homemade’ kombucha cultures.

‘This showed some interesting differences between the kombucha and the biofilmwith opportunistic pathogens living in the kombucha. Further, we have isolated a range of microbial isolates that are all producing cellulose from these four cultures.

The second part of my talk was focused on the synbio aspect of utilising the cellulose biofilm and understanding the genetics behind the production of the cellulose biofilm within the isolated microorganisms.

‘In short, we want to add proteins to the biofilm to give it a function, such as being able to degrade plastics or toxins from our water systems. Further, we are working on trying to make the biofilm stronger, so it can be used in textile production.’  

The invitation to present resulted from a Newcastle-node project called “Development of a functional biomaterial” that involves Evan Gibbs, Professor Brett Neilan and Associate Professor Karl Hassan.