Fermentation is the use of living organisms (mainly microorganisms), typically on a large scale, to produce commercial products or to carry out important chemical transformations.
Industrial fermentation is an interdisciplinary science that applies principles associated with biology and engineering. The biological aspect focuses on microbiology and biochemistry. The engineering aspect applies ﬂuid dynamics and materials engineering. Industrial fermentation is associated primarily with the commercial exploitation of microorganisms on a large scale. The microbes used may be natural species, mutants, or microorganisms that have been genetically engineered. Many products of considerable economic value are derived from industrial fermentation processes. Common products such as antibiotics, cheese, pickles, wine, beer, biofuels, vitamins, amino acids, solvents, and biological insecticides and pesticides are produced via industrial fermentation.
The goal of industrial fermentation is to improve biochemical or physiological processes that microbes are capable of performing while yielding the highest quality and quantity of a particular product. The development of fermentation processes requires knowledge from dis-
disciplines such as microbiology, biochemistry, genetics, chemistry, chemical and bioprocess engineering, mathematics, and computer science. The major microorganisms used in industrial fermentation are fungi (such as yeast) and bacteria.
Careers and Course Work
The knowledge and skills developed in the Fermentation program have relevance to numerous professional fields and careers. Students will be exposed to a wide range of applications to broaden their career scope and assure long-term success. There are several career options for people who interested in being trained in fermentation technology. Food-biotechnology, microbiology, pharmaceutical, chemical, and biofuel companies are the biggest employers in the area. Students who are interested in conducting research in industrial fermentation can ﬁnd jobs in university, government, and industry laboratories.
Following is the list of prospective job opportunities in this field:
• Quality Control/QC (the most common one)
• Analytical testing (a step ahead of QC)
• Production (the operation handler, working on big reactors, packaging units, and sterilizers)
• Research & Development ( many options: Therapeutic research, GMOs, Biopesticides, Biofertilizers, Flavor research etc)
• process development
• technical services
Some industrial fermentation specialists may be considered as
• genetic engineers (using DNA techniques to modify living organisms)
• Bioprocess or chemical engineers (optimizing bioreactors and biochemical pathways for the desired product).
When choosing a career in industrial fermentation, one should be prepared for an interdisciplinary science. Students should obtain skills in microbiology, molecular biology; bioengineering, plant biology, organic chemistry, biochemistry, agriculture, bioprocess engineering, and chemical engineering.
Most professionals in industrial fermentation have a bachelor’s degree in biology, microbiology, or biotechnology. Individuals who have managerial responsibilities often have a master’s or doctorate in biology, microbiology, fermentation, molecular biology, biochemistry, biotechnology, bioprocess or chemical engineering, or genetics. A career in industrial fermentation presents a variety of work options.
Applications of Fermentation
• Fermentation has a number of commercial applications beyond those described thus far. Many occur in the food preparation and processing industry. A variety of bacteria are used in the production of olives, cucumber pickles, and sauerkraut from the raw olives, cucumbers, and cabbage, respectively. The selection of exactly the right bacteria and the right conditions (for example, acidity and salt concentration) is an art in producing food products with exactly the desired flavors. An interesting line of research in the food sciences is aimed at the production of edible food products by the fermentation of petroleum.
• In some cases, antibiotics and other drugs can be prepared by fermentation if no other commercially efficient method is available. For example, the important drug cortisone can be prepared by the fermentation of a plant steroid known as diosgenin. The enzymes used in the reaction are provided by the mold Rhizopus nigricans.
• One of the most successful commercial applications of fermentation has been the production of ethyl alcohol for use in gasohol. Gasohol is a mixture of about 90% gasoline and 10% alcohol. The alcohol needed for this product can be obtained from the fermentation of agricultural and municipal wastes. The use of gasohol provides a promising method for using renewable resources (plant material) to extend the availability of a nonrenewable resource (gasoline).
• Another application of the fermentation process is in the treatment of wastewater. In the activated sludge process, aerobic bacteria are used to ferment organic material in wastewater. Solid wastes are converted to carbon dioxide, water, and mineral salts.
• Industrial fermentation plays a major role in providing food, chemicals, and fuels. End users are consumers, farmers, medical doctors, and industrialists. Industrial fermentation is changing the course of history.