March 28, 2023

Santiago Barberá: “Driving innovation by optimising processes, reducing effluents and energy efficiency”

Ayesa has become one of the world’s leading biotechnology engineering firms due to its track record of designing 30 yeast plants in the past 20 years. Santiago Barberá, Director of Process Plants, discusses the company’s current involvement in multiple projects in an interview.


What factors have contributed to the rise in yeast plant projects despite the established and balanced global supply and demand in the mature market of yeast production?

While it is true that the global installed capacity for yeast production exceeds the demand for the product, opportunities arise in different regions due to their particular context. In Ukraine and Germany, for example, businesses are expanding and diversifying with a focus on yeast extracts as consumers demand more natural and sustainable products. In India, the combination of rapidly increasing demand and outdated yeast plants that produce low-quality products has led to the need for new facilities. Moreover, Indians prefer fresh yeast, which presents an obstacle for importing. Therefore, Ayesa is currently working on its second yeast plant project in India in recent years.


Can the geopolitical situation of a country affect the demand for these types of plants?

Indeed, a country’s geopolitical situation can have an impact on demand for yeast plants. For instance, Algeria’s yeast industry was destroyed by civil war, leaving the country to import all of its yeast for several decades. This has had a detrimental effect on its trade balance, which has been worsened by the energy crisis. Consequently, the Algerian government has been promoting the establishment of local yeast production companies.


How does a well-designed yeast plant impact the production capacity and quality?

Due to yeast being composed of living microorganisms, it is crucial for production facilities to be designed in a manner that prevents microbial contamination, which can significantly decrease the quality of the end product. Precise calculation of each stage involved in the yeast production process allows for maximum yield and optimization of a plant’s production capacity. Ayesa has conducted numerous audits of existing yeast plants, revealing inadequate designs in terms of hygiene that prevent clients from meeting international standards, or designs that fail to meet demand. Identifying contamination and production limitations in these non-Ayesa designed plants, and offering solutions to address them, is a task only achievable by companies with extensive experience in designing processing plants.


How has Ayesa incorporated innovation into its latest projects?

Our vast experience enables us to continuously innovate and optimize processes, minimize energy usage, and reduce effluents for our clients, thereby enhancing their competitiveness and sustainability.


Who are our big clients in this area?

We have worked with the world’s leading producers, such as AB Mauri (part of Associated British Foods), Angel Yeast, Puratos, Oriental Yeast, Somadir, Pakmaya and Uniferm, to give just a few examples, as well as new clients who are entering the yeast market, the majority of which had previous experience in the food industry.


Which of these kinds of products currently have the most potential?

Yeast is mainly used in the food, baking and pharmaceutical industry, as well as for producing alcohol and for domestic use. We’re currently seeing an increase in more specialised products that offer greater added value. This includes those produced for distilleries as well as yeast extracts used as natural flavour enhancers.


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